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California's wildfire situation may get even worse

Higher humidity and diminished winds have given firefighters in California some much-needed help, but 17 large fires are still burning. In Santa Barbara County, conditions are drier now than when it saw the worst wildfire in its history 25 years ago. Chris Martinez reports.
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How safe are airports from terrorist attacks?
The bombs that were detonated in the Brussels airport went off in the departure area, just before the security checkpoint. That space is vunerable to attacks, raising questions about what else can be done to make airports more secure. Kris Van Cleave has more.
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Obama juggles Cuban visit with response to Brussels attack
President Obama learned of Tuesday's terror attack while in the middle of his historic trip to Cuba. The president offered his support and condolences to Belgium, but kept his attention on his trip. Margaret Brennan has more.
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Mormon missionaries among U.S. victims of Brussels attack
For one victim of Tuesday's attacks in Brussels, it was not his first brush with terrorism. Mormon missionary Mason Wells was just a block from the bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon. On Tuesday, the 19-year-old was wounded by one of the bombs at the Brussels airport. Danielle Nottingham has more.
U.K. terror expert on Brussels attack
CBS News consultant Richard Walton, the former head of counter terrorism for the London metropolitan police, provides some insight into Tuesday's attacks.
Who Is Jonathan Pentland? Army Sergeant Charged With Assaulting Black Man in Viral Video
Soldier Jonathan Pentland, 42, has been arrested and charged with third-degree assault and battery.
The world mourns with Brussels
Memorials for the victims of the Brussels attacks began popping up within hours of the bombings. Scott Pelley reports.
FBI ramps up surveillance on terror suspects in U.S.
The federal government said Tuesday there is no credible threat of a Brussels-style plot against the United States. But law enforcement agencies are concerned about terrorists who may be operating under the radar. Jeff Pegues has more.
How could ISIS pull off Brussels attack?
Michael Morell, former deputy director for the CIA, discusses how the Brussels attacks could have happened -- and what can be done to prevent similar attacks in America.
Are Brussels bombings connected to Paris attacks?
A number of the suspects in last year's Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people came from the same neighborhood in Brussels. Holly Williams reports on how the two attacks may be linked.
The art of persuasion: How past presidents have tried to nudge Supreme Court justices off the bench
Early in President Barack Obama's second term, while fellow Democrats still controlled the Senate, the President asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to a private lunch at the White House.
What can the public do to help prevent attacks in U.S.?
John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter terrorism for the NYPD, shares what can be learned from the response to the Brussels attacks -- and what the public can do do stay safe.
Security stepped up in U.S. in response to Brussels terror attack
In the U.S., security has been stepped up at airports, train stations, and national monuments. Tourist attractions in New York, Washington D.C. and Miami were also on law enforcement's heightened security list. Michelle Miller reports.
Several Americans among wounded in Belgium
No Americans have been found among the dead so far, but several were caught up in the Brussels attacks. Jim Axelrod details what we know about them.
Targeted subway station near European Parliament building
At least twenty people were killed in the subway bombing during Tuesday's Brussels terrorist attacks. The explosion in the station went off about an hour after the attacks at the airport. Allen Pizzey has more.
Cancel Instagram for kids: It 'preys' on children's fear of missing out, advocates say to Zuckerberg
Global advocates urge Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to scrap creating an Instagram for kids, claiming it will cause harm to kids' well-being, growth.
What Is Spotify Car Thing? How To Get on Waitlist for New Streaming Device
The device, which was described as being a limited run, is specifically designed to play Spotify app audio. Here's how you can join the waitlist and potentially get one.
Ted Cruz reacts to Brussels terror attack
Responding to the Belgium terror attacks, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said: "We need to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods." Vinita Nair has more.
Hundreds protest at Brooklyn Center Police Department for 4th night after shooting
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Wednesday as protests over the killing of Daunte Wright continued for a fourth night.
Marijuana legalization: Too much cash and other problems Congress needs to resolve
Neither a federal crackdown on pot nor a hands-off approach is advisable — but Washington must act to resolve the legal conundrum.
Happy 31st birthday, Emma Watson: See her most stylish looks
Emma Watson turns 31 on April 15, 2021. To celebrate, we've rounded up photos of some of her most stylish looks.
3 terror suspects seen in Brussels terror attacks
Officials have released a photo of three men suspected in carrying out the Brussels terror attacks. CBS News correspondent Elaine Cobbe joins CBSN from Brussels International Airport with the latest on what we know about the possible suspects.
Luka Doncic lifts Mavericks with improbable game-winning shot vs. Grizzlies
Luka Doncic played the savior for the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
FBI steps up security after Brussels terror attacks
CBS News has learned that the FBI is stepping up security in the U.S. after the terror attacks in Brussels. Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president of the Center For Cyber and Homeland Security, and joins CBSN with more analysis on security in America
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington’s temporary QB fix, has mastered the art of being an NFL nomad
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s eight-team NFL career has prepared him to be Washington’s temporary fix at the quarterback position.
Why we are going to Mars
Early 2021 saw a flurry of space missions arrive at Mars. So why is everyone so interested in the Red Planet all of a sudden?
Should America's death penalty system be fixed? More Republican lawmakers think so
A growing number of conservative lawmakers want to either overhaul capital punishment or end it altogether.
David Bossie: Biden the green radical – 'infrastructure' spending binge tells you this about who's in charge
Fresh off the passage of the wasteful $1.9 trillion "COVID relief" bill – less than 10% of which addressed public health mitigation efforts – the Biden administration continues to gaslight the American people with the same strategy for its $2.25 trillion "infrastructure" monstrosity.
President Biden is hosting Japan’s prime minister in D.C. It’s a big deal for Japan — and the U.S.
They’ll discuss new ways to cooperate, as well as unfinished business from the Trump years.
Tucker Carlson villainizes journalists on his top-rated show. Then the threats pour in.
As the Fox host's popularity grows, he has found fodder in lesser-known media figures whom he presents to his audience as symbols of liberalism-run-amok.
Absence of Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark from WNBA draft sparks age-limit discussion
The WNBA's age limit could become a bigger discussion when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
Manhunt underway for Brussels terror attack suspects
A manhunt is underway for possible suspects in the Brussels terror attacks. An ISIS flag and weapons were found during a police raid in the city. Former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker joins CBSN with more insight.
Billionaires' Pandemic Profits Alone Could Cover 70% of Biden's American Jobs Plan
"This pandemic billionaire wealth surge is a grotesque milestone after three decades of wealth steadily flowing to the top," said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Now is Our Opportunity to do Public Transit Differently | Opinion
The American Jobs Plan introduced by President Joe Biden and Secretary Pete Buttigieg is a significant step towards building a public transit system for the 21st century.
How to Buy Happiness
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.Arthur C. Brooks will discuss the science of happiness live at 11 a.m. ET on May 20. Register for In Pursuit of Happiness here.In 2010, two Nobel laureates in economics published a paper that created a tidal wave of interest both inside and outside academia. With careful data analysis, the researchers showed that people believe the quality of their lives will increase as they earn more, and their feelings do improve with additional money at low income levels. But the well-being they experience flattens out at around $75,000 in annual income (about $92,000 in today’s dollars). The news materially affected people’s lives—especially the part about happiness rising up to about $75,000: In the most high-profile example, the CEO of a Seattle-based credit-card-payment company raised his employees’ minimum salary to $70,000 (and lowered his own salary to that level) after reading the paper.This January, another economist published a new paper on the subject that found that even beyond that income level, well-being continues to rise. That’s not to imply (as much of the popular press did) that money can buy happiness off into infinity. The new study simply suggests that the drop-off occurs, on average, at higher income levels. I graphed the raw income data from the study and found that happiness flattens significantly after $100,000; at even higher levels there is very little extra well-being to be had with more income.[Read: What you gain when you give things up]The lesson remains the same as it was a decade ago: At low levels, money improves well-being. Once you earn a solid living, however, a billionaire is not likely to be any happier than you are. Yet for the most part, this truth remains hard for people to grasp. Americans work and earn and act as if becoming richer will automatically raise our happiness, no matter how rich we might get. When it comes to money and happiness, there is a glitch in our psychological code.Understanding this can help us build happier lives. Even further, it uncovers strategies for using income at all levels to raise well-being. Just because most people generally don’t get happier as they get richer beyond a certain point doesn’t mean that they can’t. In fact, no matter where we sit on the income scale, with a little knowledge and practice any of us can use money to bring more happiness.Below a certain degree of financial prosperity, seeking more money is a sensible way to pursue happiness. As economists have repeatedly shown, well-being rises with income at low socioeconomic levels because it alleviates the problems of poverty. People can erase calorie deficits, educate their kids, and go to the doctor—in other words, they can lower their unhappiness. Even if you live above the poverty line in a rich country, you might have experienced this sort of transition in early adulthood. When I could finally afford to see a dentist at age 25 after ignoring my cavities for six years, it was a huge relief. (My lack of dental care might also have been partly due to misplaced spending priorities, however—I don’t recall ever being without cigarettes during those lean years.)[Read: Some material goods can make you happy]Raising positive emotions and lowering negative ones involve independent neurological processes, but few of us recognize the difference. All we know is that we didn’t have enough money, then we got more, and then we felt better. The (incorrect) lesson that money buys happiness, especially programmed into us early in life or when we are vulnerable, can be hard to shake. Over the rest of our lives, like Pavlov’s dogs, we figuratively salivate in anticipation of good feelings when the bell of money rings.But after a while, the good feelings don’t come, because there’s no more material deprivation to relieve. For the most part, remediating the small size of your TV screen or the low horsepower of your car has no effect on your unhappiness whatsoever. This is not to say that people who make more than six digits should stop working hard—earning success through work has been shown to bring happiness at all financial levels. But beyond a certain income, working harder simply to have more money to buy things is pointless, since we find that none of life’s biggest problems—which typically involve our relationships—are solved. Quite the contrary, as spending more time fruitlessly chasing well-being up the income curve often means spending less time on love.You might be tempted to throw up your hands in exasperation at these findings. It’s easy to be discouraged by the fact that we are driven instinctively toward a goal that doesn’t actually satisfy us.Luckily, there is a loophole. Research shows that how the wealthier among us spend their money makes all the difference for their well-being. Specifically, spending money to have experiences, buying time, and giving money away to help others all reliably raise happiness. Thus, if you have a little excess income, it’s best to use it on those three things.[Read: Who actually feels satisfied about money?]The key factor connecting all those approaches is other people. If you buy an experience, whether it be a vacation or just a dinner out, you can raise your happiness if you share it with someone you love. Friends and family are two key ingredients in well-being, and fun experiences with these people give us sweet memories we can enjoy for the rest of our lives—unlike the designer shoes that will wear out or go out of style.Likewise, if you pay someone to do something time-consuming that you don’t like to do (for example, cutting your yard), and don’t waste the time you gain on unpleasant things like doom-scrolling on social media, you can get a happiness boost by spending those extra hours with others. As an added bonus, you might be able to convert your excess capital into earned income for someone who is still climbing the well-being curve.And if you use your money to charitably support a person or a worthy cause, your brain will respond with boosts in dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, elevating your mood. Charitable giving is also linked to higher earning, which you can then spend on relationships, experiences, and charity.[Read: A counterintuitive way to cheer up when you’re down]Left to our urges and natural desires, we can get stuck in a cycle of dissatisfaction, in which we work, earn, buy, and hope to finally get happier. But we don’t have to play that futile game. Anyone who acquires money can use it to buy some happiness, and do a little self-improvement in the process. If we don’t have much, we can spend any extra cash on removing some of the stressors in our daily lives. When we have enough to meet our basic needs, we can fight our materialistic impulses and spend time enjoying the people around us. And if we are lucky enough to have extra income, we can make it into a source of happiness, by transforming it into a means to share, and to love others better.
What Ever Happened to Donald Trump?
The president was insistent as he left office: “We’re not going anywhere.” It had been a turbulent end of the presidency—impeachment, appalling pardons, and a lengthy dispute over the outcome of the presidential election—but he knew that he had a devoted following, and he had every intention to remain a force in politics. And not just him: His family was eager to cash in on his electoral success, too. Usually a former president laid low for a while after leaving office. He wasn’t going to do that. He’d remain a political force, and the dominant figure in his party.But the plan didn’t go well. The president sat at his new home—he had decamped from his longtime home state—guzzling Diet Cokes and calling friends to rage about how unfairly he’d been treated and complain about overzealous prosecutors. “You get tired of listening to it,” one friend confessed.The year was 2001, and the former president was Bill Clinton. “When a president leaves office we expect him to disappear for a while, cede the stage to the new guy, give us some time to forget why we weren’t so sorry to see him go,” Time intoned.It’s unlikely that Donald Trump will be calling Bill Clinton up to commiserate, not that Clinton would take the call. But if somehow they connected, the two men might find they had something to discuss. Although making any statements about Trump’s relative irrelevance feels like tempting fate, he has remained unexpectedly peripheral since leaving office. You’re not imagining it. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump showed recently that Google search interest and cable-news images of Trump have both returned to roughly where they were before he ran for office. Only cable-news mentions remain significantly elevated, but even they have dropped steeply.[David A. Graham: The double bind of Trump’s outrageous statements]An outburst over the weekend—speaking to a room of Republican officials and donors, Trump called the most powerful elected Republican in the nation a “dumb son of a bitch”—underscores his fade. The speech got some attention, but not much. The time when “covfefe” could consume the nation for days on end is, mercifully, past. One common theory for Trump’s disappearance is that his ban from Twitter (and other social-media sites) effectively knocked out his ability to reach a wide audience. With the Twitter account at his fingertips, he could blast whatever thought or diatribe was at the top of his mind to millions of followers; the press would dutifully report on the latest outrage and the discourse around it. Adding to the credibility of the theory, Trump’s eclipse seemed to begin around January 8, when Twitter announced the ban.Trump clearly misses the feeling of tweeting and getting immediate feedback. He’s taken to emailing statements—sometimes several in a day—to reporters, presumably in the hopes that they’ll tweet them, but it’s not the same. For one thing, freed from the constraints of 280 characters, he tends to ramble into the kind of incoherence manifested at his rallies. For another, sentiments that took on some comprehensibility in the churn of social media feel disembodied and nonsensical when they land in my inbox. (Why exactly is Trump sending this statement praising Stephen Miller? Did I miss something, or did he? Or both?)[David A. Graham: Trump is getting more desperate—and more dangerous]But the Twitter theory has flaws, too. Trump’s tweets could still make government officials quake, but they had already begun to lose their potency by 2019. Fewer people were responding to them, and Trump’s attempts to make up for that decline by simply tweeting more often further diluted the effect. The nation seemed to grow blasé (for better or worse) about the president’s most outrageous remarks.Besides, someone of Trump’s fame doesn’t need a Twitter account. As an insurgent presidential candidate in 2015, Trump found that the account provided a useful way to drive the conversation, even though few journalists or politicians initially took his run seriously. But by the time he was president, Trump had plenty of other ways to commandeer media attention: press conferences, formal interviews, Oval Office addresses.Although he sometimes eschewed these methods as president—he didn’t give an Oval Office address until almost two years into his term—he’s now using the ones that remain available to him. For a period beginning after the January 6 coup attempt, Trump was uncharacteristically silent, apparently heeding the advice of aides who suggested that he should keep his head down while the Senate was still considering his impeachment. Since the Senate failed to convict, Trump has been more vocal. He has continued to make public remarks, including to the Republican National Committee gathering last weekend, and has given interviews to several of his favorite cable-news outlets. He’s also given at least a dozen interviews for books about his presidency. Trump could probably get more attention if he gave an interview to a more adversarial interviewer—Trump with Jake Tapper or Mary Louise Kelly, or a rematch with Chris Wallace or Lesley Stahl would surely produce fireworks—but it wasn’t that long ago that a call-in to Fox and Friends was plenty newsmaking on its own.[David A. Graham: Why has the president gone silent?]Trump may be a victim of his past success in driving the news cycle. First, the press has perhaps finally started to learn its lesson about covering his emptiest, most trolly outrage bait. Second, Trump’s ability to control the news depended in part on ever greater provocations. Once you’ve tried to overturn a presidential election, you don’t have a lot of room to escalate. (Knock on wood—if anyone could find space, it would be Trump.)Trump succeeded by making himself a vessel for the grievances of his base, but his complaints about the election—though he has tried to frame them as about a theft of the election from the American people—are fundamentally just about what he sees as a personal affront to him, rather than some broader issue. Polls show that many Republicans believe the 2020 election was tainted, and the damage that will do to faith in democracy in the long term is dangerous. In the more immediate future, however, no one will remain as personally angry about it as Trump. Some followers who saw him as a man who could challenge the establishment will view his defeat as proof that politics is irredeemable, and will slide into apathy and disengagement. For others, Trump’s loss makes him into a loser—especially damaging given how much Trump hates losers. They will seek other heroes now.Even as he loses control of the news, Trump remains in control of the Republican Party. A sizable minority of the population still backs him. He tops polls of GOP voters for 2024 presidential candidates. Leading Republicans like Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise make pilgrimages to Mar-a-Lago to shore up their standing. The campaign committee for Senate Republicans seems to have invented a prize just to give to Trump. Even figures such as Mitch McConnell and Nikki Haley, who harshly criticized Trump over the coup, have puerilely said they would back him if he were the 2024 nominee.[David A. Graham: Trump is the loser]But what Trump retains is negative power—the power to torpedo a Republican who won’t stay in lockstep with him. (In theory, at least; we’ve yet to see a test.) He has lost most of his positive power—the ability to make things happen, to hand out appointments and pardons, to push forward causes. The basic problem for Trump is that, despite his best and most nefarious efforts, he is no longer president. He just doesn’t matter that much now.This obsolescence happens to every president once he leaves office—even ones, like Bill Clinton, who leave office relatively popular, which Trump has never been. Throughout his political career, Trump has acted as though he is immune not only to legal consequences for his actions but also to all the conventional rules of politics, and has managed to convince many pundits that that is true. So far, he’s been successful at dodging the law, but the rules have already caught up to him.
Why Is Voting So Hard in Blue States?
If President Joe Biden wants to vote by mail next year in Delaware, he’ll have to provide a valid reason for why he can’t make the two-hour drive from the White House back to his polling place in Wilmington. Luckily for him, Biden’s line of work allows him to cast an absentee ballot: Being president counts as “public service” under state law. Most Delaware residents, however, won’t have such a convenient excuse. Few states have more limited voting options than Delaware, a Democratic bastion that allowed little mail balloting before the pandemic hit.Biden has assailed Georgia’s new voting law as an atrocity akin to “Jim Crow in the 21st century” for the impact it could have on Black citizens. But even once the GOP-passed measure takes effect, Georgia citizens will still have far more opportunities to vote before Election Day than their counterparts in the president’s home state, where one in three residents is Black or Latino. To Republicans, Biden’s criticism of the Georgia law smacks of hypocrisy. “They have a point,” says Dwayne Bensing, a voting-rights advocate with Delaware’s ACLU affiliate. “The state is playing catch-up in a lot of ways.”Delaware isn’t an anomaly among Democratic strongholds, and its example presents the president’s party with an uncomfortable reminder: Although Democrats like to call out Republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the Northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else.Connecticut has no early voting at all, and New York’s onerous rules force voters to change their registration months in advance if they want to participate in a party primary. In Rhode Island, Democrats enacted a decade ago the kind of photo-ID law that the party has labeled “racist” when drafted by Republicans; the state also requires voters to get the signatures of not one but two witnesses when casting an absentee ballot (only Alabama and North Carolina are similarly strict). According to a new analysis released this week by the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York rank in the bottom third of states in their access to early and mail-in balloting.The restrictions across the Northeast are relics of the urban Democratic machines, which preferred to mobilize their voters precinct by precinct on Election Day rather than give reformers a lengthier window to rally opposition. Democrats who have won election after election in states such as New York, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have had little incentive to change the rules that helped them win.[Read: The Democrats trying to overturn an election]The party has been more concerned with expanding access to the polls in places where it has struggled to obtain and keep power (although it’s not clear whether Democrats’ assumptions about the impact voting laws have on turnout are correct). In Congress, Democrats are prioritizing legislation called the For the People Act, or H.R. 1, which seeks to curb GOP efforts to suppress voting. The bill would set national standards to loosen photo-ID requirements, guarantee early-voting and voting-by-mail options, and mandate automatic and same-day registration. Although Democrats have focused on how the bill would rein in red states, H.R. 1 would hit some blue states just as hard, if not harder.Republicans love to call out Democratic sanctimony in the debate over voting laws, but this ignores the divergent directions the two parties are headed. Following their 2020 defeat and under pressure from Donald Trump allies, Republicans are pushing to restrict voting in states such as Texas, Iowa, Arizona, and Florida, which have recently been competitive. The Georgia law tightens ID requirements for absentee ballots and caps the number of drop boxes where they can be deposited. The measure also limits who can distribute water to voters waiting in line outside polling places. The effect of the bill is likely to make voting easier in Republican strongholds—by expanding early voting in rural areas, for example—but harder in Democratic urban centers, where lines at polling places tend to be longer and where voting by mail was more popular last year.Democrats in charge of blue states are now racing to expand access in a way that matches the party’s rhetoric nationwide. In some cases, they’re trying to make permanent the temporary changes to voting laws that were put in place because of the pandemic. Delaware, for example, removed the mandate that voters cite a reason for casting an absentee ballot. Making the reform permanent requires the passage of an amendment to the state constitution, and Republicans who supported that proposal in the past are balking now, threatening its adoption.The limit on mail-in ballots isn’t Delaware’s only voting anachronism. Bensing told me that he’s been voting early in elections since he first cast a ballot, in Arkansas in 2002. When he moved to Delaware two years ago, he was shocked to find that the option wasn’t available. Delaware won’t debut early voting until 2022, and the 10-day period the state plans to offer still falls short of the 15-day minimum congressional Democrats have proposed in their voting-rights legislation.Democrats in Delaware may finally be opening up their voting laws, but they’re unwilling to call them racist. State Representative David Bentz has been trying to expand voting since he arrived in the legislature in 2015 and is leading the Democrats’ push to modernize the state’s laws now. But when I asked him why it’s taken so long for Delaware to change its rules, he was stumped. “I wish I had a better answer for you,” Bentz told me. He said the state did not have a history of long lines at the polls. “It wasn’t something where groups were coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, we’re disenfranchising people,’” Bentz said. If anything, Democrats suggest, the state’s restrictive voting laws are born of political inertia. When Bentz and Bensing joined a multiracial group of advocates over Zoom last week to announce a coordinated push for new voting laws, according to Bensing, it was the first-ever statewide coalition dedicated to voting rights in Delaware.Unlike Delaware’s restrictions, Rhode Island’s voter-ID law can’t be described as antiquated: The statute is just 10 years old and won adoption under a Democratic majority with support from powerful Black elected leaders. Voting-rights advocates trace the law’s passage to the conservative bent of the state’s Democratic Party and tension that pitted Black and white Democrats against the state’s rising Latino population. Backers of the bill included the first Black speaker of the General Assembly. They shared stories of voter fraud they had witnessed, but opponents of the law saw it as an effort to suppress Latino turnout in Providence. “It was bizarro,” said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, the state affiliate of the national government-watchdog group. “Ten years later, I still don’t know how it happened.”Rhode Island Democrats have proposed legislation to expand voting by mail and early voting, including a repeal of the requirement that absentee ballots have two witness signatures. But they’re not likely to touch the voter-ID system. “Repealing voter ID was a nonstarter,” Steven Brown, the executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, told me. “So there was no point in putting it in the reform bill.” Rhode Island’s critics of the ID requirement now find themselves in the same unenviable position as their progressive allies in red states: hoping the federal government will override a restrictive law that their own leaders—in this case, fellow Democrats—refuse to change.
The Forgotten Story of a Diplomat Who Disappeared
Illustrations by Leonardo SantamariaThis article was published online on April 15, 2021.The Motel El Encanto in Hermosillo, Mexico, served a lavish breakfast that John and Andra Patterson liked to eat on the tiled deck near their suite. The couple would discuss the day ahead over fresh pineapple and pan dulces while their 4-year-old daughter, Julia, watched the gray cat that skulked about the motel’s Spanish arches.On the morning of March 22, 1974, the Pattersons’ breakfast chatter centered on their search for a permanent home. They were nearing their two-month anniversary of living in Hermosillo, where John was a junior diplomat at the American consulate, and the motel was feeling cramped.After breakfast, Andra dropped John off at work. Because this was his first posting as a member of the United States Foreign Service, the 31-year-old Patterson had been given an unglamorous job: He was a vice consul responsible for promoting trade between the U.S. and Mexico, which on this particular Friday meant driving out to meet with a group of ranchers who hoped to improve their yield of beef.At 11 a.m., Patterson grabbed the keys to a consular vehicle, a beige International Harvester truck, and headed downstairs. One of his co-workers, an administrative assistant named Luis Sánchez, saw him standing outside the building, chatting amicably with a mustached man in dark sunglasses and a blue suit. When Patterson got behind the wheel of the truck, his acquaintance climbed into the passenger seat.An hour later, the clerk at the Motel El Encanto spotted the International Harvester traveling north on the broad boulevard that cuts through Hermosillo. He recognized Patterson as the driver: With his thick mop of sandy-brown hair and modish eyeglasses, the vice consul resembled an unkempt Warren Beatty. But the other man was unfamiliar to the clerk.Around 2:30 p.m., Andra swung by the consulate to browse its library; she wanted to borrow some books before picking Julia up from school. She was immersed in that pleasant task when a secretary informed her that Elmer Yelton, the consul general, needed to see her right away.Yelton told Andra that John had never shown up for his meeting with the ranchers. When the consulate reopened after its daily lunch break, the staff had discovered an envelope addressed to “Mr. Yelton” tucked beneath the front door. Inside was a two-page note scrawled on green stationery. The consul general showed this note to Andra, who could see that it was written in her husband’s hand. The words, however, were clearly not John’s own.“I have evidently been taken hostage by the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico,” the note began, before segueing into a list of demands. The group wanted a $500,000 ransom, to be hand-delivered by Andra in two installments. The first payment of $250,000 was to be made at the Hotel Fray Marcos in Nogales, Mexico, two days later. Andra was then to fly to Mexico City, check into the airport Holiday Inn, and await instructions on how to make the second payment.“Under no circumstances whatsoever is there to be any news release concerning my captivity before or after my release,” the letter warned. If word got out, or if the authorities attempted to intervene in any way, the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico would “execute 1 U.S. official each week or member of a U.S. official family.”Once she’d gotten past her initial shock, Andra thought back to a strange moment in New Orleans. The Pattersons had stopped in the city in January on their way from their former home in Virginia to Hermosillo. They’d hired a babysitter to watch Julia so they could catch a movie. The film the couple had chosen was State of Siege, a thinly veiled account of the 1970 kidnapping and murder of Dan Mitrione, a USAID official who’d been teaching the Uruguayan police how to torture. During a scene in which the body of the Mitrione stand-in is found in an abandoned Cadillac, Andra had felt a jolt of anxiety. “Oh my God, that better not be you!” she’d blurted out to John, loud enough to startle other moviegoers.John had done his best to wave off her concern. But both he and Andra knew that diplomacy had become a perilous line of work.Word of the Patterson kidnapping reached President Nixon that evening, while he was en route to Camp David after a long week spent tangling with Watergate investigators. The president and his advisers were by now accustomed to handling situations of this nature: Patterson was the sixth American diplomat to be abducted in a little over a year.The first had been Clinton Knox, the ambassador to Haiti, who was ambushed near his Port-au-Prince home on January 23, 1973. His kidnappers forced him to call the American consul general in the city, Ward Christensen, who was then lured into captivity as well. A deputy undersecretary of state rushed to Port-au-Prince to help negotiate for the two men’s lives. After 20 hours of talks, Knox and Christensen were set free in exchange for $70,000 from the Haitian treasury and the release of a dozen imprisoned revolutionaries.Six weeks later, commandos from Black September—the Palestinian group that had murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics the year before—stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum. Among the hostages they seized were U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and the deputy chief of mission, George Curtis Moore, who’d been attending a dinner party. The kidnappers demanded the release of numerous prisoners, including Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy.A State Department official was dispatched to Sudan to establish a dialogue with the diplomats’ captors. But this was a higher-profile crisis than the one in Port-au-Prince, and Nixon, who’d come to believe that terrorism posed an existential threat to American security, decided it was time to take the hardest possible line. On March 2, 1973, while the State Department’s envoy was still in transit to Sudan, Nixon was asked about the Black September kidnappings at a White House press conference. The president improvised an answer that left his negotiator no wiggle room: “As far as the United States as a government giving in to blackmail demands, we cannot do so and we will not do so.” Hours later, the terrorists in Khartoum allowed Noel and Moore to write last letters to their wives before executing them.Now that blood had been spilled, the Nixon administration felt compelled to double down on the president’s off-the-cuff remark and make it policy. The U.S. government would henceforth not negotiate with terrorists, even when the lives of American diplomats were at stake.That stance was put to the test two months later, on May 4, 1973, when guerrillas kidnapped Terrence Leonhardy, the American consul general in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. Though the State Department publicly reiterated that it would not legitimize terrorists by giving in to extortion, it used diplomatic back channels to pressure Mexico to work toward Leonhardy’s safe return. After three days in blindfolded captivity, the consul general was let go in exchange for the release of 30 prisoners allied with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of the People, one of the many leftist groups devoted to overthrowing President Luis Echeverría’s authoritarian regime.The White House chose to adopt a similar approach when confronting the Patterson affair. To maintain the optics of toughness—crucial to the president’s political survival in the thick of Watergate—the Nixon administration would refuse to provide even a penny to the kidnappers. But the State Department would be permitted to lean on the Mexican government to locate and liberate the vice consul, and it could offer to quietly assist the Patterson family should they wish to pay the ransom themselves.This decision was relayed to Patterson’s widowed mother, Ann, who lived on Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. She and her late husband, who’d been a successful supermarket executive, had powerful friends throughout the city, and Ann tore through her Rolodex in search of help. Within a few hours, she’d persuaded a department-store heiress to personally guarantee a $250,000 bank loan. That sum would be enough for Andra to deliver the first payment to the kidnappers, and thus buy John a little time.A plan was made for Andra to fly to Arizona the next day to collect the ransom; she would then have ample time to make it to Nogales for her initial rendezvous with the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico. Andra’s stepfather, meanwhile, would travel to Hermosillo to pick up Julia.Andra passed the sleepless night worrying about her husband, whom she’d known since college. The two had met in the fall of 1962 while spending their junior year abroad in France. On their first date, at an Aix-en-Provence café, John ordered them both espressos in perfect French and then drank his through a sugar cube wedged between his teeth—a trick he said he’d learned from his brother-in-law in Rome. Nineteen-year-old Andra Sigerson was smitten. That summer, John and Andra rode a Lambretta scooter across Europe. They basked on the verandas of seaside hotels, washed their clothes in the Mediterranean, and rescued a stray mutt from a swarm of bees on Mallorca. One day, as they whizzed down a mountain road toward Spain’s Costa del Sol, Andra pressed her cheek between John’s shoulder blades and thought, I can die right now, because I’ve felt the highest high a person can ever feel.But the love affair faded once John and Andra returned to their respective midwestern universities, 400 miles apart. Andra was vexed by John’s habit of canceling his weekend visits without notice, and by the awkward pauses on their phone calls. Days before graduation in 1964, John tried to salvage the relationship by proposing on a Wisconsin bluff. When Andra declined, she assumed she’d never see him again.Six years later, Andra left an unhappy marriage to the man with whom she’d had Julia. She and her 1-year-old daughter relocated from eastern Washington State to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where she’d grown up. While adjusting to life as a single mother, she decided to find out what had become of John. She learned that he was now a student at Columbia Business School and arranged to meet him on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She watched him stroll down Fifth Avenue toward the church, his hair as wild and glorious as she remembered. Andra knew they would never part again.Andra and Julia soon followed John to Washington, D.C., where he’d found work with the ad hoc commission that was implementing Nixon’s emergency freeze on consumer prices. But the Beltway grind didn’t suit the couple, who craved the sense of adventure they’d experienced aboard their Lambretta scooter a decade earlier. The escape plan that John proposed was one he’d secretly been aching to pursue since adolescence: He would join the Foreign Service.When he graduated from the Foreign Service’s training program, in the summer of 1973, the State Department asked him to begin his career in Santiago, Chile. But after the country’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende, was deposed in a bloody coup that September, John was reassigned to Hermosillo, a place assumed to be relatively safe for a rookie diplomat and his family.Andra left Hermosillo at midday on March 23. Joining her on the Tucson-bound plane were two State Department veterans who’d flown up from Mexico City at dawn: Victor Dikeos, the supervisor for all of the American consulates in the country, and Keith Gwyn, a diplomatic-security agent. Neither man had ever met John, but they’d volunteered to serve as Andra’s bodyguards because they considered the Foreign Service a sacred family.Andra and her guardians went by car from Tucson to Nogales, Arizona, where they stopped at a motel near the crossing into Nogales, Mexico. Andra had been told to wait there to receive the ransom money, which was being couriered from a bank in Phoenix. As she bided her time, a phalanx of FBI agents descended on the motel. They said they’d obtained the Mexican government’s permission to cross the border with Andra and stake out the Hotel Fray Marcos, where the payoff was to take place. The agents hoped to identify and track whoever collected the cash.This plan made Dikeos nervous. He worried the kidnappers would execute John immediately if they detected any hint of surveillance. He was not informed of the FBI’s hunch that the person who showed up to take the money would not be a genuine terrorist, but rather someone with clandestine ties to John and Andra Patterson.The ransom money, consisting of $50 and $20 bills stacked inside Girl Scout cookie boxes, arrived at the Arizona border motel well past dark on March 23. Andra took a taxi into Mexico and checked in at the Hotel Fray Marcos, a mere block away from American soil.The next morning, Andra waited for the phone to ring; outside, more than two dozen FBI agents tried to remain incognito. Hours passed, yet no one came looking for the money. By lunchtime, the FBI and the State Department concluded that the payoff wasn’t going to happen, and that Andra should return to Hermosillo by car at once.When she arrived late that afternoon, Andra learned of an important discovery that had been made in her absence: The police had found the International Harvester truck that John had been driving on the morning of his disappearance. Someone had left it at a gas station on the edge of town; there were no signs of a struggle.The next day, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger placed a call to Andra. He was in the midst of reeling off some sympathetic platitudes when Andra cut him off to ask the only question on her mind: “Do you have any money for me?” As Kissinger tried to explain why U.S. policy precluded the State Department from contributing any funds toward the ransom, Andra stopped listening and handed the phone to someone else.Andra settled in to await further word from the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico. The U.S. government, meanwhile, took pains to heed the ransom note’s instructions and conceal John Patterson’s abduction from the public. But at a March 27 press conference in Washington, a reporter asked Attorney General William Saxbe why he had abruptly canceled an upcoming trip to Mexico. Having apparently forgotten that he’d been sworn to secrecy, Saxbe replied that an American diplomat had been kidnapped in the country and that his own security was potentially at risk.Within hours, reporters had uncovered key facts about the kidnapping: the identity of the victim, the amount of money at stake, the name of the terrorist group involved. “U.S. Vice Consul Missing in Mexico,” blared the front-page headline in The New York Times.Fearful of how the kidnappers might react, the diplomats in Hermosillo wrote an apologetic statement for Andra to deliver to the press. On March 29, she emerged from Elmer Yelton’s residence and faced a crowd of 30 journalists who’d assembled on the sidewalk out front. She fought back tears as she read from a note card into a bank of microphones:I am here to appeal to the people who have my husband. I am deeply sorry that the news was made public. I will do everything in my power to ensure his welfare. Please let me know that he is well. Please contact me. And for my husband, if he could hear me …Aware that John and Andra were fond of speaking French to each other, and of the nicknames they liked to use, the statement’s authors had concluded it with the words Giovanni, je t’aime (“John, I love you”). But that phrase struck Andra as not quite right, so she improvised a final line more reflective of her yearning and her fortitude. Giovanni, je t’attends: “John, I am waiting for you.”Two hundred Mexican police officers combed the desert beyond Hermosillo, hoping to find John Patterson. They discovered no sign of the vice consul, though they did arrest some members of the 23rd of September Communist League, a Marxist guerrilla group responsible for attacks throughout the state of Sonora. The authorities had recently killed one of the group’s leaders, and a rumor circulated that the Patterson abduction might be an attempt at revenge. Mexican police interrogated the captured insurgents, but their brutal style of questioning yielded no useful clues.Patterson’s own government, meanwhile, doubted that Mexican revolutionaries had played any role in his disappearance. From day one, the FBI had suspected that it might be dealing with a “self-kidnapping”—an elaborate hoax engineered by the Pattersons to steal money from John’s family.The bureau’s agents had found the kidnappers’ modus operandi odd, starting with the fact that no one had ever heard of the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico. Weirder still was the group’s stated aversion to publicity: Media coverage is the lifeblood of terrorism, the means by which small movements make their political aims known.FBI investigators had also reviewed a sketch of the man who’d been spotted in John Patterson’s truck on the morning of March 22 and had decided he was likely a white American, based on his facial features and formal manner of dress. Agents combed through airplane passenger lists and the logs of rental-car agencies, searching for American citizens who might have been in Hermosillo when Patterson vanished. The list of potential suspects included a copper-mining executive, the landlord of a mobile-home park, and the owner of a Lake Tahoe ski resort, all of whom eventually cleared themselves with alibis.FBI field offices from Seattle to Milwaukee to New York were ordered to dig into the Pattersons’ backgrounds. The agents assigned to this task documented the nature of the couple’s relationship, which had reignited while Andra was still technically married to her first husband, and which included a child who was not John’s own. They also noted Andra’s apparent affinity for leftist causes. She “admitted to participating in various ‘Rad-Lib’ demonstrations and was against the war in Vietnam and admitted participating in demonstrations against the war,” an agent wrote in his summary of an interview with Andra. At an agency where J. Edgar Hoover’s reactionary politics still held sway, the Pattersons may have harbored too many progressive ideals to be trusted. The FBI’s leading theory was that the Pattersons had masterminded the whole affair.That theory, shared by Mexican authorities, was soon leaked to newspapers on both sides of the border. “Police Assure that Disappearance of U.S. Vice Consul is a Self-kidnapping,” one blunt headline stated. The Justice Department began to discuss how to prosecute the Pattersons once the scam had reached its end. “If it is determined to be a hoax, prosecutive action would most likely be in the Phoenix division,” the FBI director’s office noted in an April 5 memo.John’s alleged kidnappers were silent until April 10, when a man who spoke perfect English with a slight Texas twang called the consul general’s residence in Hermosillo and asked for Andra. Elmer Yelton’s wife, Jo, who had the poise of a woman with decades in the field, took the phone instead and said that Andra wasn’t there.“I—they will give her a second chance,” the man said, referring to Andra. “She is to go to Rosarito in Baja … We are both in Baja … She is to stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel … She will be contacted there Friday … John will—and I will be—released Sunday, if she does not cause trouble.”Jo Yelton pressed the caller to furnish some proof that John was still alive. But the man kept insisting that he was a hostage too, and could offer nothing beyond the message he’d been ordered to convey. “But please, ah, these people came very close to harming John and I because of this,” he said. “And they are very serious.”The FBI had plenty of reasons to consider the call fishy, not least the fact that it traced back to a telephone exchange in San Diego. But Andra Patterson was adamant that she be given the chance to make the payment—this time without companions who might scare away her husband’s captors. After taking a light plane to Tijuana with Victor Dikeos and Keith Gwyn, Andra drove alone to the Rosarito Beach Hotel.Over the next few days, Andra sat by the hotel’s pool, a McDonald’s bag filled with cash always by her side. But as had happened in Nogales, no one ever came to take the money, and Andra left, dejected.On May 6, an envelope addressed to Elmer Yelton arrived at the Hermosillo consulate; the postmark revealed that it had been mailed from California on April 30. The letter inside was written on the same green paper as the original ransom note, but the handwriting was not John’s. “Two times we gave you chances to free him and two time [sic] you hoped to trap our fighters but we know what you do when you do it,” the letter read. “Fail to do as we instruct and death is now his only release.” The author directed Andra to return to the Rosarito Beach Hotel and check in under the name “West.” If she had the $250,000 payment, she would be taken to meet her husband.There was a problem, however: The letter stated that Andra had to be back in Rosarito no later than May 3, a date now three days in the past. The slow delivery of the mail had apparently invalidated the kidnappers’ offer before it could even be made.For the second time, Andra felt she had to reach John’s captors through the media. On May 17, she spoke to the press and stressed that she was willing to do whatever the kidnappers desired. “I ask only one thing first,” she said. “For some proof or evidence that they indeed have my husband and that he is all right.”That proof would never come. As Andra was making her plea to the press, the FBI was having a radical change of heart about the case. The bureau’s agents in Southern California were beginning to zero in on a person of interest, a 40-year-old American who clearly hadn’t conspired with the Pattersons—and who, just a year earlier, had been feted as a national hero at the White House.On March 14, 1973, three C-141 cargo planes touched down in sequence at Clark Air Base, in the Philippines. The vessels carried 108 American prisoners of war, freed by North Vietnam as part of the Paris Peace Accords. Many of these men had spent years in captivity at Hỏa Lò Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton. Their homecoming was meant to be a moment of catharsis for a war-weary American public.One by one, emaciated men in sky-blue work shirts emerged from the planes and saluted the ecstatic crowd from atop the boarding stairs. The loudest cheers were for Lieutenant Commander John McCain, the most famous of the freed prisoners, whose limp betrayed the horrors of the abuse he’d endured.With the audience’s attention focused on the heroes at the front of the plane, few noticed a lone figure exit through the rear door of the last C-141 to land. An unimposing man on the cusp of middle age, he hustled to a waiting bus without responding to any shouted questions from the press. Up until that moment, most everyone familiar with the story of Bobby Joe Keesee had assumed he was long dead.Keesee hailed from a microscopic town in the Texas Panhandle. He dropped out of the eighth grade and, at the age of 17, enlisted in the Army just in time to be shipped off to the Korean War. Though he yearned to be a paratrooper, Keesee spent his nine months in combat as a standard infantryman. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1953, he decided to make the Army his career and spent the rest of the decade doing stints at bases in Japan, Germany, and Iceland as he attained the rank of sergeant. He earned his parachutist badge, qualified as a sharpshooter with an M‑1 rifle, and learned how to operate the flight simulators used to train military pilots.The most notable aspect of Keesee’s Army career was the manner in which he chose to quit. In January 1962, Keesee went AWOL from Fort Huachuca, in Arizona; stole a car; and embarked on a 13,000-mile road trip that took him as far north as Alaska. After two months on the lam, he wound up in Albuquerque, where he rented a Piper Comanche airplane. He told the owner that he needed to fly his wife to Carlsbad to visit an ailing relative, and that he’d be back by sunset. Every piece of that story was a lie.Keesee flew east toward Florida, paying for fuel along the way with kited checks. His last stop in the U.S. was at Marathon, in the Keys, after which he made the short hop to Havana. Upon landing, he professed his desire to live in a socialist paradise and requested asylum.Fidel Castro’s secret police were unmoved by Keesee’s pleas. They seized his plane, jailed him for 49 days, then put him on a flight to Miami. Keesee was arrested at the airport and extradited to Austin, Texas, where he faced a 153-count federal indictment that carried a possible life sentence.At trial, Keesee mounted an unusual defense: He contended that he’d acted at the behest of the CIA, which had recruited him to carry out a mission to destabilize Castro’s regime. “I was dumbfounded when they arrested me,” Keesee said on the witness stand. (The CIA insisted that it had no records of Keesee.)Keesee spouted other fictions too, with the apparent aim of appealing to the jury’s sense of patriotism. He claimed, for example, to have earned a Purple Heart in Korea after suffering a grievous head wound in combat. (His lone war injury, to one of his arms, occurred during a pickup soccer game.) Keesee’s lies seemed to have the intended effect. He was ultimately convicted of just a single count of theft and sentenced to a mere five years in prison; he was out in less than three.After another stint behind bars, for stealing a shipment of parachutes from Fort Bliss, in Texas, in 1965, Keesee moved to Phoenix and found work as a cabinetmaker. But his dalliance with blue-collar normalcy did not last long.In September 1970, Keesee turned up in northeastern Thailand. Masquerading as a movie producer, he chartered a small plane with two pilots on the pretense of scouting film locations in the jungle. Twenty minutes into a flight near the Laotian border, Keesee brandished a pistol and ordered the pilots to take him to a beach near the North Vietnamese city of Đồng Hới. It seemed an absurd request given that the U.S. was mired in a long-running conflict with North Vietnam that had cost more than 50,000 American lives.Once the plane came to rest on the white sand, Keesee jumped out holding a leather briefcase and walked toward a nearby row of huts. After dodging gunfire during takeoff, the pilots glanced back to see dozens of startled villagers encircling the doughy, bespectacled Keesee, the only American within a hundred miles.The North Vietnamese villagers took Keesee prisoner and turned him over to the army, which understandably assumed that he was a spy. Interrogators used all manner of torture to get Keesee to cough up information about his mission: They knocked out his teeth and tore out his toenails. But since he was just a cabinetmaker afflicted with a pathological need to insert himself into global events—a need that blotted out all logic and reason—Keesee could provide nothing of value to satisfy his tormentors.He wound up in solitary confinement as one of the Hanoi Hilton’s few civilian inmates. Since the North Vietnamese never acknowledged that they had him in custody, both his family and the U.S. government thought he’d been killed soon after landing near Đồng Hới. His appearance alongside John McCain and the other released POWs in the Philippines was a shock to all who remembered his bizarre odyssey. The Thai government made noise about extraditing Keesee so that he could stand trial for hijacking the plane he’d chartered in 1970. But it never made a formal request, to the relief of American officials, who opposed the move. Despite his muddled backstory, Keesee possessed the veneer of heroism by virtue of his proximity to more noble POWs. And in 1973, a defeated America was in desperate need of heroes.Keesee was flown to Travis Air Force Base, in California, where he made a show of kissing the honor guard’s American flag before receiving a $1,792 payment from the government for his time in captivity. Two months later, he attended a welcome-home party at the White House. Inside a tent on the South Lawn, he quaffed champagne and gorged on sirloin with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Phyllis Diller, and John Wayne. The highlight of the evening came when a well-oiled President Nixon made a toast and cracked a joke about having ended the Vietnam War so Bob Hope—also in attendance—could be home for the holidays. The president then joined Irving Berlin in a raucous rendition of “God Bless America.”Keesee moved to Huntington Beach, California, where he rented an apartment, bought a yellow Ford Mustang, and obtained numerous lines of credit. He participated in parades and other civic functions where former POWs were in high demand. Eventually, though, he was forced to look for paid work. On his application to an Orange County cabinet shop, he listed his previous employer as “U.S. Govt” and his job description as “Classified.” He landed the job despite the obvious red flags.But he once again soured on life as a working stiff. In early January 1974, he paid a visit to a co-worker named Greg Fielden, a 19-year-old with a decent command of Spanish. Keesee told the teenager that he needed his help pulling off a caper that would make them both rich. It involved a trip to Mexico.Keesee and Fielden crossed the border in Keesee’s Mustang on January 16, 1974. Their destination was Hermosillo, where Keesee’s father had retired. Under the guise of being a cattle trader, Keesee had traveled there a few times in recent months to scout out the American consulate, even going so far as to introduce himself to a senior diplomat named Louis Villalovos. During their conversation, Villalovos mentioned that the consulate would soon be welcoming a new economics officer, a Columbia Business School graduate named John Patterson. Keesee told Fielden that they would lure the inexperienced Patterson out to the desert and hold him for ransom.But their timing was off. When Keesee and Fielden asked for Patterson at the consulate, they were told he was still en route to Hermosillo and wouldn’t be starting work for another week. The duo left the city without their would-be hostage.Fielden told Keesee he didn’t want to participate in any future kidnapping attempts, and Keesee decided to abandon the idea. But then a tragedy made him reconsider: On March 6, Keesee’s father drowned while fishing near Hermosillo, and Keesee went to Mexico to arrange for the body’s repatriation to Arizona. While sifting through his father’s estate, he found a Remington 12‑gauge shotgun.On March 19, three days after burying his father in Phoenix, Keesee returned to Hermosillo and checked into the Hotel Gandara. He paid another visit to the American consulate, where he struck up a dialogue with John Patterson about the Sonoran cattle industry. On the morning of March 22, he called Patterson and talked his way into tagging along for the vice consul’s meeting with the ranchers.Patterson had been trained to be wary of people who looked like they might have ties to Mexican terrorists, not well-dressed Americans. As he climbed into the International Harvester with his genial new acquaintance, Patterson had no reason to think that anything was amiss.Like so many criminals whose ambition exceeds their diligence, Keesee was undone by a careless error: When he’d checked into the Hotel Gandara, he’d done so under his own name. When the FBI belatedly got its hands on the hotel’s registration cards, its agents naturally wondered why a convicted felon had been hanging around town.The FBI approached Luis Sánchez, the administrative assistant who’d spotted Patterson’s conversation partner on March 22, and showed him an array of photos of mustached white men. Sánchez picked out two and said that either could be the man he’d seen outside the consulate. Both photos were of Bobby Joe Keesee, taken years apart. The recording of the April 10 phone call to the consul general’s residence proved useful too. The FBI played the tape for Keesee’s older brother, who identified the voice as Bobby Joe’s.On the morning of May 28, the FBI arrested Keesee in Huntington Beach as he left his apartment to go to work. A search of his car turned up a pair of handcuffs and two shotgun shells.Rather than claim total ignorance of the case, Keesee confessed that he was the person who’d written the April 30 letter that had instructed Andra to return to the Rosarito Beach Hotel. He insisted, however, that he’d only sent the letter because he’d felt sorry for Andra and wanted to give her a shred of hope. He otherwise denied knowing anything about the kidnapping.Andra was in New York retrieving Julia when she learned that her husband’s alleged kidnapper was being held on $100,000 bail. The news did not erode her faith in the inevitability of her husband’s safe return. She and Julia traveled to Mexico City and became temporary guests of Victor Dikeos and his family, who occupied a plush villa with a trampoline in the backyard. While Julia began ballet classes, Andra devoted herself to apartment hunting. She vowed to friends that she was willing to grow old in Mexico if need be; she wouldn’t leave the country without John.On July 8, 1974, a peasant wandering in the scrublands north of Hermosillo noticed what looked like the carcass of a large animal. But when he pulled close to the mass of blood, bone, and skin, he realized that he’d stumbled upon a human body half-buried in the dirt—a male with a thick mop of sandy-brown hair.The coroner in Hermosillo left no room for doubt that John Patterson had finally been found. He matched the body’s teeth to dental records sent from Philadelphia. A gold wedding ring was found on the ground near the body, inscribed with the initials JSP and AMS, as well as the French words Mon Destin. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.Henry Kissinger sent an Air Force jet to Hermosillo to transport Patterson’s body to Washington, D.C., for burial. Andra accompanied her husband’s flag-draped casket on the journey to Andrews Air Force Base. The honor guard on the tarmac, the funeral at Rock Creek Church, the awkward embraces from dignitaries she’d never met—all of it was a blur for Andra as she tried to reckon with the emptiness that lay ahead.Federal prosecutors added murder to the list of charges against Bobby Joe Keesee. They built a seemingly airtight case, the centerpiece of which was an affidavit from Greg Fielden in which he described the failed kidnapping plot from January. Investigators also tracked down the shotgun once owned by Keesee’s father at a pawn shop. An analysis of the gun’s stock revealed specks of human blood.Prosecutors contended that once Keesee had had Patterson under his physical control, he’d realized that the vice consul would surely identify him if released. Keesee, the prosecutors wrote, had seen only one way out of his predicament: It appears that Keesee handcuffed Patterson and marched him off into the desert. Patterson must have realized at this time that Keesee intended to kill him because all of the evidence points to a struggle. His broken glasses were discovered next to a bush about 100 feet from his grave … It must have been when Patterson began to struggle, that Keesee, with ten years’ Army experience as a paratrooper and an expert in the use of arms, delivered the crippling butt stroke to Patterson’s face which broke his glasses and knocked out his front teeth. After Patterson fell to the ground, Keesee must have then smashed in the back of his head and dragged his body into a small gully nearby. In the midst of pretrial preparations, however, prosecutors seem to have suffered pangs of self-doubt. They lacked an eyewitness to the murder or physical evidence that tied Keesee to the crime scene. (The dried blood on the shotgun could not be definitively matched to Patterson.) The muddled nature of the kidnapping investigation also threatened to prove problematic: The defense might try to discredit the FBI by harping on the weeks it had spent focused on John and Andra as the plot’s organizers.Rather than risk the humiliation of losing at trial, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego cut a deal. Keesee agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to kidnap, specifically linked to the extortion letter he’d mailed from San Diego on April 30, 1974. In exchange, the government dropped all the other charges, including murder.In advance of sentencing, a court-appointed psychiatrist evaluated Keesee. The doctor described him as a sociopath who was “clever enough to surround himself with verbal smokescreens.” Yet even the psychiatrist wound up bamboozled by his subject. “Mr. Keesee has a good deal on the positive side of the ledger—physique and physical health, intellect and engaging personality, and a versatile education largely obtained ‘the hard way,’ ” he wrote in his report. “Society may be able to profit from his services in five to ten years.”At his sentencing hearing on April 28, 1975, Keesee was offered the customary opportunity to make a statement. The words he offered were superficially contrite yet oddly passive. “There’s nothing more I can say,” he declared. “I got involved in something that I realize was wrong.” Moments later, the judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The Justice Department assured the Pattersons that Keesee would serve the maximum term possible. But it would not make good on that promise.In late 1998, a champion powerboat racer named Harry Christensen placed a classified ad in Flying magazine. Christensen, who also owned a boat-manufacturing company near Arizona’s Lake Havasu, had recently purchased a new Piper Cheyenne turboprop, and he was looking to sell his old Cessna 340. The most promising response came from a man who called from Las Vegas. He introduced himself as a property developer named Bobby Joe Keesee.Christensen flew to Las Vegas on January 5, 1999, to pick up the 64-year-old Keesee and take him to Lake Havasu City. The two men agreed to close the deal the next morning. Christensen’s wife, Debbie, and his son, Jeff, expected to see him at work later that morning with Keesee’s $300,000 check in hand.When the afternoon rolled around without any trace of him, they alerted the police and went looking for him at the airport. They were told the Cessna had taken off around 8 a.m. and had landed in Winslow, Arizona, to refuel. It was unclear where the plane had gone from there. That evening, Debbie and Jeff received a call from the proprietor of Coronado Airport in northeast Albuquerque. The Cessna had landed there that afternoon and was now parked on the tarmac. The police searched the empty plane and found a pool of blood in the passenger area, as well as a travel bag containing Keesee’s pilot’s license and a .38-caliber pistol clip that was missing bullets.The next day, Keesee was arrested by FBI agents while driving on Interstate 25 near Las Cruces. His pockets contained Christensen’s driver’s license, which he’d altered by gluing on his own photograph, and a gold Rolex engraved with the initials HMC.Keesee had been paroled in January 1986, having supposedly proved his trustworthiness by working in a prison business office. Over the next dozen years, Keesee had orchestrated a series of daring scams: He had set up a fake company to purchase $634,000 worth of copper; he had posed as a Federal Emergency Management Agency official to steal 2,000 feet of gold wire; he had tricked a New Jersey aviation company into selling him a cargo plane that he’d hoped to offload to Mexican drug traffickers. Each con ended with his arrest. But Keesee had never served more than a few years in prison for any of those crimes.After his arrest near Las Cruces, Keesee swore that Christensen had been alive when they’d parted ways. But on May 2, a rancher found Christensen’s remains while grazing his cattle in a desolate patch off New Mexico’s Route 44. An autopsy revealed that Christensen had been shot twice in the chest and once in the head.Even Keesee couldn’t talk his way out of trouble this time. To avoid the death penalty, he agreed to plead guilty to a range of charges including murder and air piracy. A sentence of life without parole meant that Keesee’s career—a case study in the incoherence of evil—had finally come to an end.Andra Patterson barely survived her first year as a widow. She moved back to Virginia and lived under an assumed name, fearing that Keesee might have associates who wished her and Julia harm. As she mourned her husband, she often took solace in a fantasy in which she spotted John and Keesee driving through Hermosillo in the International Harvester. Andra envisioned herself racing out into the boulevard to pull John from the vehicle and spiriting him back to the safety of the Motel El Encanto. Whenever the reassuring power of that reverie wore off, a wave of crushing sadness followed.Andra’s grief, so staggering in the years right after Mexico, gradually receded into the background of her busy life. She worked at the State Department, where she edited an in-house newsletter, and she eventually remarried. She also became an accomplished painter; her work was once displayed at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur.I first contacted Andra through the website she maintains to showcase her art. A few months later, she agreed to meet me for coffee in New York. Less than a minute after we sat down, she cut off my feeble attempt at chitchat to say that she was reluctant to dredge up her most searing memories and share them with the world. She was worried not just about the psychic toll of opening up about the events in Hermosillo, but also about her personal safety. The last time she’d received any word about Keesee, back in the mid-1990s, he was out of prison; what if he tracked her and Julia down after seeing one of his old crimes brought to light?I told Andra about the murder of Harry Christensen, whose name she’d never heard before. And I was also able to assure her that Keesee was no longer a threat to anyone: He had died of lung cancer in a prison hospital in December 2010. No one had claimed his body.Andra eventually consented to a series of interviews at her home near Washington, D.C. During the first of these, she showed me a file box marked The Case, which had been sealed up in her attic. It contained a trove of artifacts that she had preserved: affidavits, telegrams, newspaper clippings, a letter of condolence from President Nixon, an annotated map from the European scooter trip with John. Andra told me she’d recently started sifting through the archive for the first time in 40 years. It was painful, of course, to be reminded of how her world had been smashed apart by a sociopath. But there was also joy to be had in reacquainting herself with the person she’d once been—a person who had not wilted in the face of the incomprehensible.“That young 31-year-old woman, she acted with no help, no one to hold her; her best friend was missing,” she said. “But she acted—I acted—completely honorably throughout that whole period. And I love her.”This article appears in the May 2021 print edition with the headline “The Diplomat Who Disappeared.”
Where British Imperial Rule Lives On
Late last month, the leader of Myanmar’s junta, Min Aung Hlaing, stood on a huge parade field to recount the military’s “immense prestige etched in the annals of history.” Hundreds of soldiers who had not been deployed to quell an uprising against the country’s coup marched in formation at dawn. Armored vehicles spewing black smoke rumbled alongside them.The speech marked Myanmar’s annual Armed Forces Day, telling a soaring and selectively edited tale of the institution’s “glorious past.” As in most retellings of the country’s recent history, special attention was paid to the wrongdoings of its former colonial master and the way the military “annihilated the British Imperialists.” Indeed, Myanmar (also known as Burma) might have won independence in 1948, but almost all of the country’s ills—real and perceived—are still regularly blamed on the British.Yet that disdain is not quite enough to do away with the onerous laws Britain left behind: Successive Burmese governments have shown a fondness for wielding them to silence critics and quash dissent—and Min Aung Hlaing has proved no different. Five days after his speech, his regime charged Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, who has been detained since the February 1 coup, under the Official Secrets Act. The law dates from 1923 and covers a plethora of offenses, including trespassing and possessing documents deemed secret. It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.Across Asia, in places such as Myanmar, India, and Hong Kong, leaders that espouse nationalist rhetoric and bemoan their former colonial overlords see no issue with deploying laws designed by those foreign masters against their own people. These lasting vestiges of the British empire are draconian, overly broad, and vaguely worded, but they persist very much because of these traits, existing as powerful weapons of modern lawfare. In fact, rather than repealing them, some governments have tweaked and fused them with new rules, creating even more problematic regulations.“Any government would want these laws to remain so that they could use it whenever politically convenient for them, and to silence dissenters,” Chitranshul Sinha, a lawyer and the author of The Great Repression: The Story of Sedition in India, told me of that country’s colonial legal legacy. “These laws cause a chilling effect on free speech—that arch nemesis of authoritarians.”[Read: Why did it take a coup?]Democratic and quasi-democratic postcolonial governments in Asia have for decades avoided abolishing or significantly reforming such laws, including Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, sedition laws in India and Hong Kong, and a host of other colonial-era regulations, despite ample warnings about possible future misuse. In 1997, months before Britain returned Hong Kong to China, the late legal scholar Ming Kou Chan assessed the much-praised legal system that would be left behind when the Union Jack was lowered. “Despite British claims that they brought the blessings of the rule of law to Hong Kong, as in many other colonies,” he wrote, “the British have in fact created a legal system emphasizing law and order while neglecting the personal liberties and individual rights associated with the common law tradition.”In Myanmar, the military—which in an effort at legitimacy has named itself the State Administration Council—has made liberal use of these outdated laws. Although Suu Kyi’s case has drawn the most attention, the junta makes almost nightly pronouncements through state television and radio of new arrest warrants targeting journalists, activists, models, and medical workers, all issued under a section of the country’s 1861 penal code that has long been criticized by activists and rights groups for criminalizing speech. (The military tweaked a portion of the law following its seizure of power, making possible the punishment of those who question the legitimacy of the coup or the military government.)Among those at risk is Myat Noe Aye, a well-known actor and influencer who used her substantial social-media following to rally support for anti-coup demonstrations and document her own attendance at protests. This month, the 25-year-old saw her picture on TV alongside those of others accused of incitement. Seemingly unperturbed by the possibility of imprisonment, she turned to Facebook to do a bit of quick trolling, posting a screenshot of the broadcast with the caption “Thank you for using a beautiful photo” and a kissy-face emoji. “They want people to be afraid of them, to make them feel like they are powerful,” she told me of the junta. To do this, she said, they had resorted to their old tactics, using “stupid” laws, communications cuts, and arbitrary killings. But, she said, “we are living in the 21st century; they can’t scare us easily.”None of Myanmar's past governments, including those elected during its period of limited democracy from 2012 through February, made serious efforts to substantively amend or abolish the Official Secrets Act or similar laws. If anything, those administrations used them to their advantage, too. In 2018, two Reuters journalists were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act for reporting on the massacre of a group of Rohingya men. Suu Kyi, whose “rule of law” refrain made at least a cameo in nearly all of her public addresses, defended the jailings both publicly and privately. When the pair—with whom I worked while I was posted to Myanmar for Reuters—were handed seven-year sentences, she explained dryly that their punishment was not repressive. “I wonder whether many people have actually read the summary of the judgment, which had nothing to do with the freedom of expression at all; it had to do with the Officials Secrets Act,” she told a forum audience in Hanoi. (The lawyer who defended the Reuters duo is now defending Suu Kyi.)[Read: How Aung San Suu Kyi lost her way]Her stance was much the same as that of the previous administration, the first after direct military rule ended, which used the act against four journalists and the chief executive of a local newspaper, Unity Journal. The paper had printed a report claiming that a defense facility was really a chemical-weapons factory. The government denied the story, which was poorly sourced and written, and all five defendants were sentenced to 10 years in jail with hard labor, though they were later released. Daniel Aguirre, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Roehampton in the U.K., who previously served as the legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists in Myanmar, says laws such as the Official Secrets Act were created “to control colonial subjects and ensure stability for colonial economic exploitation.” What they were not designed to do, he told me, was “protect the human rights of citizens. That these laws have been maintained by successive governments since independence reflects governance that values stability and tranquility over human rights and freedoms.”Restoring stability has become the guiding principle of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, after she helped kick-start prodemocracy protests in 2019. She has relied on colonial-era emergency ordinances, and sedition cases have reappeared in Hong Kong courts, more than a decade after Britain abolished the offense. In 2009, a British official said that the law had hailed “from a bygone era when freedom of expression wasn’t seen as the right it is today,” and expressed hope that other countries where similar statutes were still enforced would follow suit. Even before the protests began, Lam’s government showed that it was content to reach into the past to achieve its goals, using a public-security ordinance from 1911 to ban a fringe political group in 2018, a first since the territory had been returned to China. More recently, the city’s authorities have combined pre-handover laws with new legislation aimed at quashing dissent, under the guise of maintaining security.At the same time, the government has been stripping away mentions of colonialism from city museums as it looks to revise its history, according to local media. (It has no issue, however, with the British officers still serving in its police force’s ranks.) Pro-Beijing figures, always in search of targets to blame for their own low popularity and poor governance record, have argued that colonialism is responsible for a lack of national identity in Hong Kong. More bellicose rhetoric has come from Beijing officials who have used colonialism as a cudgel, consistently decrying Britain’s meddling. During the height of the 2019 protests, a former Chinese ambassador to London claimed that his host country had a “colonial mindset” regarding Hong Kong, which had been under British rule for 156 years. And this year, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry pointed out that the British had “imposed draconian restrictions on assembly, procession, and association in Hong Kong.” Ronny Tong, a prodemocracy lawmaker turned vociferous establishment cheerleader, who is now part of Lam’s cabinet, made a similar case to me. He argued that Beijing’s all-encompassing national-security law, used to arrest dozens of people and a key piece of the city’s reengineering, was actually an improvement on the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance.Senia Ng, a barrister and member of Hong Kong’s biggest prodemocracy party, told me that the issue was not just the continued existence of such laws, but the manner in which the government was using them. “The government tries to get rid of Hong Kong’s colonial roots, but still deploys it when they find it useful,” Ng said. “At the end of the day, I think it boils down to prosecuting for political motives.” As an example, many in the prodemocracy movement point to a group of prominent activists including Martin Lee, the city’s octogenarian “Father of Democracy,” and the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who will be sentenced on Friday for violating the Public Order Ordinance, a series of regulations enacted in 1967 to empower police during leftist riots fueled by the Cultural Revolution. The group faces five years in jail for taking part in a peaceful march that drew more than 1.5 million people to Hong Kong’s rain-soaked streets two years ago.[Read: China is the Myanmar coup’s ‘biggest loser’]Similar moves can be seen in India, where the case of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist charged in February with sedition, brought renewed global attention to the suppression of free speech under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. The charges against Ravi stem from her compiling and sharing a document to help farmers protest against agricultural laws.Sinha, the lawyer and author, told me the use of sedition laws in India is “downright oppressive” and “most definitely hypocritical.” Much as it does elsewhere, it “sort of mirrors the way the British handled dissent.”
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Date Lab: They talked for seven hours. On Zoom. Really.
She didn’t want to say goodbye.
Substack wants to pay you to write about local news
Children selling newspapers, 1910. | Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Your local newspaper is dying. Can newsletters replace it? Substack, the email newsletter startup, might be best known as the home of high-profile writers who leave big publications and set up their own businesses. Now it wants to become known as a place where journalists you haven’t heard of make a living by covering news in their hometowns. Substack plans to hand out a total of $1 million in the form of one-year stipends to up to 30 journalists who are interested in covering local news on the platform. A smattering of writers are already using Substack to sell paid subscriptions to newsletters dedicated to local news, and the company thinks, with the right incentive, many more might do it. “We do see a lot of encouraging signs that the model also works for reporting and for local news,” Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie told me. “And that’s why we’re putting in this sizable chunk of money to make a bigger bet on it.” The terms of Substack’s local push roughly mirror the “Substack Pro” program it has been using to lure high-profile writers to the platform: Writers can get up to $100,000 in one-time payments, and can also keep 15 percent of any revenue their newsletters generate in the first year. After that, they’re on their own financially but will keep 90 percent of the fees subscribers pay them. Substack says it will also provide mentorship from other Substack journalists, as well as access to subsidized health care and other services. Substack’s announcement comes as it is generating increasing coverage, controversy, and competition. The startup, which launched in 2017, has become an object of fascination for the chattering-class types, as high-profile writers leave big-time publications to set up shop there — former New York Times columnist Charlie Warzel is the most recent example, along with several of my former colleagues who used to work at Vox Media. In some cases, these journalists have been able to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by moving to Substack. The company has also angered some of its users, who accuse it of providing a platform to writers they find odious. And now that it has proved out a model for paid newsletters, Substack is facing competition from a range of competitors, including Facebook, Twitter, and Ghost, a nonprofit open source platform. McKenzie and co-founder Chris Best talked about all of those issues with me in this week’s episode of Recode Media. Tl;dr: They argue that they’re not, as some posit, an existential threat to the likes of the New York Times, but that instead they are a new option for some writers; they argue that they host writers with a wide range of opinions and interests and are loath to interfere with any Substack writers’ output; and they say that Substack writers are free to leave for other platforms. Their job is to convince them to stay. But back to local news, which has been in a steadily worsening crisis for the last 20 years, via a vicious cycle: The internet has steadily stripped away local news outlets’ advertising revenue, which leads to newsroom cutbacks, which leads to weakened products, which leads to declining audiences, which leads to more revenue losses. Repeat. We’ve also seen various attempts to fix the situation, ranging from Patch, a once-ambitious plan to build all-digital newsrooms in towns across the country that still exists in a scaled-down form, to the American Journalism Project, which wants to combine philanthropy, corporate donations, and subscriber money into a not-for-profit news model. Substack, to its credit, doesn’t argue that it can single-handedly save local news, just that it thinks there is an audience that will pay to read it and journalists who can make a living selling it. But that’s very much an untested thesis. Some of the journalists Substack points to as encouraging examples of local journalism say they’re not paying all their bills with Substack revenue. That means they’re not spending all of their time covering local news for Substack, which means Substack is at best an extra source of local news and not a replacement for a gutted newspaper. Matt Elliott, who covers Toronto politics via his City Hall Watcher Substack, says he has 900 subscribers paying him $5 a month or $50 a year. But it’s one of several gigs, including a weekly column at the Toronto Star and teaching college journalism. Substack, he says, replaces money he used to make selling one-off stories to other outlets — money he is happy to have, since it’s more consistent. “It’s almost like freelance insurance,” he says. “And that’s a powerful thing to have, as somebody who’s been a freelancer.” Adam Wren, who covers Indiana politics via his Importantville Substack, has 432 subscribers who pay him as much as $150 a year; he says his audience includes local lobbyists as well as national reporters who want to keep tabs on what’s happening in his home state. But he’s only spending five to six hours a week on his newsletter, generally “in the wee hours,” he says. Wren also has a full-time job writing about national politics for Insider. “I have this sense that [Substack] is always going to be supplementary” for his journalism career, he says. If you want a more encouraging perspective on Substack’s ability to build a local outlet, talk to Joshi Herrmann, a former freelance writer who started The Mill in Manchester, UK, last fall; now he has 850 subscribers paying him about $10 a month and has the money to hire another reporter and to rent a small office space. He thinks he’ll eventually be able to hire five or six reporters, as well as freelancers, all of whom will be writing features and “doing really good in-depth stuff.” Substack revenues aren’t “the most money I’ve ever made,” Herrmann says, but he says they offer him a chance to make something that doesn’t exist — essentially a local magazine with a business model somewhere between the high-end Financial Times and Patreon. “If it keeps on growing like it has been, this can work.”
American describes scene of Brussels airport attack
Andrew Brandt, a former law enforcement official, was at the Brussels International Airport with his wife and joins CBSN with a description of the deadly bombing.
Help! My Daughter Cut Me Out of Her Life.
She didn’t even tell me she’s pregnant.
Brussels reacts to deadly terror attacks
A possible image of the Brussels terror suspects has surfaced. Gabriele Steinhauser is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal based in Brussels, and joins CBSN with more.
Brussels attack follows high-profile arrest
The deadly twin attacks in the Belgian capital come just three days after the last surviving suspect in the Paris attacks was arrested. Anne Marie Green and Jamie Yuccas report.
Ask a Teacher: My Child’s Future Preschool Teacher Is a Conspiracy Theorist
Should I find another preschool?