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Toddler's Unexpected Reaction to Being Shot With a Nerf Gun Has Internet in Stitches

A young boy was shot in the stomach by his uncle during a nerf gun fight, and what he did next was totally out of left field.
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Greg Abbott Remarks About South Africa Migrants 'Crossing Border' Prompts Widespread Derision
Social media users accuse the Texas governor of confusing the country of South Africa with the continent of South America.
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Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson need to show more for these Giants and Jets wins not to be hollow
But we’re at the stage of the season when the “how” begins to nudge ahead of the “what,” right? When the performance of the players who figure to become the teams’ future is more interesting than what the scoreboard shows.
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Shop the 20 best Cyber Monday home deals for the 2021 holidays
Goodbye, Black Friday and hello, Cyber Monday! Here are the best deals you can buy for your home.
Japan and Israel ban all foreign nationals, while at least 44 countries have imposed travel restrictions
62.8M shoppers expected on Cyber Monday to cap holiday weekend
The National Retail Federation expected a total of 158.3 million people to hit stores this year, up slightly from last year's pandemic-dented shopping weekend.
The Wild West of cyberspace just got a little less wild
Israeli is heightening restrictions on cyber vendors amid international pressure.
The 10 Most-Watched TV Shows on Netflix in November 2021: From 'Narcos: Mexico' to 'Arcane'
November 2021 brought shows like "Cowboy Bebop" and "Hellbound" to Netflix, but it was a smash hit from earlier in the year that viewers were still obsessed with.
Congress launches year-end sprint
Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga perform 'One Last Time'
In August 2021, Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga performed two sold-out concerts that were billed as Bennet's final New York performances. The August 3 show ran on November 28 in a CBS special called "One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga."
Former assistant football coach accused of threatening, stalking former Louisville administrator
Christine Herring filed a protective order against former Louisville football co-defensive coordinator Cort Dennison after an extramarital affair.
Turnovers doom Tyronn Lue's plans: Takeaways from Clippers' loss to Warriors
Tyronn Lue knew how he wanted to attack the Golden State Warriors' top players, but he didn't count on the Clippers committing 25 turnovers.
Former defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon, claiming portions of memoir are being improperly redacted
Mark T. Esper said in a lawsuit that Biden administration officials are preventing him from sharing a “full and unvarnished” accounting of his service under President Donald Trump.
Father of Parkland victim details FBI's 'mistake' he says enabled shooting
CNN's Brianna Keilar speaks with Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland high school shooting victim Jaime, after more than a dozen families reached a settlement with the Justice Department in connection with a lawsuit they filed after the FBI failed to act on tips warning about the shooter, according to a court filing.
Joyful reunions as Malaysia-Singapore border opens
Malaysians working in Singapore held joyful reunions with their loved ones after returning to their homeland on Monday following the partial reopening of a land border that has been shuttered for nearly two years due to the pandemic. Buses ferried fully vaccinated passengers across the Causeway Bridge that connects the island of Singapore with the Malaysian peninsula, with strict measures in place including pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 tests.
Military service members face deadline to get COVID-19 vaccine
U.S. Navy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham said that service members who do not get vaccinated "can be administratively separated for not following a direct order."
Omicron variant casts a shadow over Asia's cautious reopening
A return to border and social restrictions could upend months of progress in countries such as Singapore, often a bellwether for the rest of Asia.
Shopping online this holiday season? Why you need to protect yourself
Cyber Monday is here, and while millions of Americans will be looking for the best deals the internet has to offer, cyber criminals will be hard at work looking to target online shoppers.
Merriam-Webster picks its 2021 word of the year
The U.S. dictionary of record says lookups for the word increased 1,048% this year, and it's a word that "really represents two different stories."
Inflation surges globally, putting households and businesses in a pinch
From appliance stores in the United States to food markets in Hungary and gas stations in Poland, rising consumer prices fueled by high energy costs and supply chain disruptions are putting a pinch on households and businesses worldwide.
If Omicron Is So Risky, Why Didn’t the U.S. Test Travelers Upon Arrival Before It Banned Them?
Dado Ruvic via ReutersAs of one minute after midnight Monday, the United States has banned all foreigner travelers coming from southern Africa, but until now has done next to nothing to find cases that might already be coming into the country, according to Reuters. Even though President Biden announced Monday’s new restrictions on Friday, health officials did not mandate any new screening or tracing measures tied to the super-mutated Omicron variant for travelers scrambling to get in before today’s deadline. The U.S. does require all airline passengers coming from outside the country to provide proof of vaccination or a proof of a negative COVID test, but so did the Netherlands—whose health officials then found 61 positive cases, of which 13 turned out to be Omicron, upon testing all 600 passengers aboard two flights from South Africa on Friday. The U.S. does not require any incoming passengers to be tested on arrival.That might not bode well for the spread of Omicron, which may or may not be as bad as panic-mongers predict. The World Health Organization on Monday issued a warning to prepare for the worst, but at the same time lambasted countries for closing off southern Africa. Read more at The Daily Beast.
'Succession' Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: Way Too Much Birthday for Kendall
Kendall Roy tries to celebrate his 40th birthday in "Succession" Season 3, Episode 7 and it is a horror show, to say the least.
Cyber Monday: You can still shop these Black Friday deals and sales
Ahead of Cyber Monday, there are still plenty of deals on Apple, Samsung, Michael Kors, Keurig, OMG Surprise! and more, available now.
Travel restrictions and the coronavirus omicron variant: Updates by country
Just as many countries around the world were beginning to loosen their border restrictions, reports of a newly detected coronavirus variant in South Africa sent many of those doors slamming shut again.
Futurists predict how we’ll one day eat, vacation and work
Forget about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook and all the talk about a metaverse. The real future will be a world that is convenient and scary and fantastical — at least according to futurologists. As this year ends, here’s a glimpse at what life might be like ... one day.
These countries have found cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant so far
Nations around the world are racing to identify how many cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant they have, as fears over the new strain force governments to shutter borders and revisit restrictions.
Flashback: Kamala Harris once called Jussie Smollett's claims of an attack an 'attempted modern day lynching'
Vice President Kamala Harris once called actor Jussie Smollett’s claims of being attacked an “attempted modern-day lynching” in January 2019 when reports of it first surfaced.
BTS 'emotional beyond words' over US shows
Speaking to the press in Iglewood, K-pop megastars BTS say that seeing stadiums filled with fans again makes them very emotional. (Nov. 29)
Jussie Smollett Trial: Brothers Allegedly Hired to Stage Attack to Appear in Court
Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo—known as Abel and Ola—have alleged that Jussie Smollett orchestrated and paid them for his own attack at their hands.
WHO warns Omicron variant poses ‘very high’ risk of infection worldwide
The new Omicron variant poses a “very high” risk of infection that could have "severe consequences" globally, the World Health Organization warned Monday.
As Highly Mutated Omicron COVID Variant Spreads, Should Americans Be Worried?
Experts spoke to Newsweek about the new variant that has been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.
Four Smart Ways to Close Out a Bewildering Tax Year
Congress is poised to withdraw some retirement tax breaks and cut off advantages enjoyed by high earners and crypto investors. It’s possible to prepare, but proceed with caution.
Cyber Monday Xbox Series X and PS5 Restock Update for Walmart, Target, GameStop and More
Cyber Monday is guaranteed to have at least one restock for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, with a few others also rumored to be taking place.
Tributes Paid to TikTok Star Devan Nicole Elayda After Her Death Aged 23
The college student died following a hit-and-run on Highway 180 in Fresno, California, local authorities have confirmed.
Cyber Monday deals 2021: Live updates on the best sales and products
One of the most sought-after shopping deals events is finally here. Hello Cyber Monday, home of Internet-housed amazing savings that you can shop from the comfort of your home. From incredible Cyber Monday deals to unbeatable discounts on Amazon devices, the hottest smart TVs and home gym-ready exercise equipment, you’ll want to have this tab...
Omicron May Fuel Surges, WHO Warns Amid Transmission Concern
The Geneva-based WHO assessed the variant’s risk as “extremely high” and called on member states to test widely.
Help 10Best choose the best new hotels, restaurants and attractions of 2021
Help us select the Best New Restaurant, Best New Attraction, Best New Theme Park Attraction and Best New Hotel by voting for your favorites. Voting ends on Monday, December 20 at noon ET, and you can vote once per day, per category.
It's LaMelo vs. Lonzo Ball, and this matchup might best reveal their star potential
LaMelo and Lonzo Ball will meet on the court Monday when the Bulls host the Hornets in a game that goes beyond the brothers.
COVID omicron variant – how worried should you be?
The same questions are on everyone’s mind right now. How afraid should I be about the new COVID-19 variant? Will I be locked down again? Will I catch the virus despite being vaccinated?
Mayors, Borough Bosses and Land Commissioners: Why Donald Trump Is Making Extremely Local Endorsements
During their local mayoral race in early November, town residents in Hialeah, Florida, population 230,000, heard a familiar voice in a campaign ad for the city’s election. “Steve Bovo,” boomed former President Donald Trump’s voice, in an ad spliced with video of Trump name checking the Republican candidate during a rally in 2020. Boosting Bovo’s…
Elizabeth Holmes to continue defending herself in blood-testing start-up scandal
Elizabeth Holmes will take the stand for the fourth day on Monday.
Food Aid to North Korea Leads to Starvation | Opinion
There is never enough food in North Korea.
14 Killer Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
Core fitness affects your balance, posture and stability.
Live betting is the wave of the future, but not for the faint of heart
Live betting gives viewers something to do while following along, but it can be extremely dangerous for the undisciplined.
Save on beauty and more with Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday 2021 deals
Shop the best deals at Saks Fifth Avenue during its Cyber Monday 2021 sales on beauty, apparel and more.
Whatever Happened to the Exceptions for Rape and Incest?
Amid all the attention paid to the legal drama surrounding both Mississippi’s and Texas’s contested abortion laws, one striking detail seems to have escaped much notice: Neither state makes an exception for rape or incest. This is a major departure, a sign of how extreme America’s abortion politics have become. For decades, exceptions to abortion bans for rape and incest were a rare source of consensus.And they still are, among the public: Time and again, Gallup has found that nearly 80 percent of Americans support such exceptions. This is true even in red states such as Alabama and Texas. Yet these exceptions are now vanishing.[Chavi Eve Karkowsky: Another extremist law that Americans have to live with]The reason is power. Many anti-abortion activists never believed that a rape or incest exception could be squared with their deeply held belief that a fetus is a person. Today the anti-abortion movement is ready to ask for what it wants, and the GOP—and its allies on the Supreme Court—is willing to give it to them. What the movement wants, now as in the past, is the recognition of fetal personhood. And historically, recognizing personhood has often meant criminalizing the behavior of pregnant women, even when those women are victims of crimes themselves. The story of rape and incest exceptions began in the late 1950s, when the elite American Law Institute, a nonpartisan group of lawyers, scholars, and judges that proposed legal reforms, considered reforming criminal abortion laws. At the time, most states criminalized all abortions unless continuing a pregnancy would threaten a person’s life. The ALI proposed a broader group of exceptions: for threats to patient health, certain fetal abnormalities, and rape and incest.The ALI could easily justify most of these exceptions as codifications of best medical practice, but rape and incest were different. There, the ALI suggested, the concern was not physical health but the “anxiety and shame” of people who were pregnant through no will of their own. Allowing abortions for people who had had consensual sex, ALI’s leaders suggested, would be “an invitation to promiscuity.” But the ALI’s framers had no such concerns about victims of incest and sexual assault.[Mary Ziegler: The anti-abortion movement will win even if it loses]In the 1960s, states began enacting the ALI provisions. Rape and incest exceptions were broadly supported, but the early anti-abortion movement opposed them. Some critics of the exceptions insisted that “real rape” almost never resulted in pregnancy—and that women would lie to take advantage of an exception. Mostly, the movement rejected the exception because it conflicted with the idea that a fetus was a rights-holding person.Roe v. Wade, which struck down abortion restrictions as unconstitutional, made the ALI provisions obsolete. But in the decades since, as right-to-lifers pushed a never-ending array of incremental restrictions on the procedure and chipped away at Roe, rape and incest exceptions remained a touchstone of the abortion debate. Supporters of abortion rights fought to include rape and incest exceptions in the Hyde Amendment, which bans Medicaid funding for abortion.Embracing the exceptions became a rite of passage for the GOP’s standard-bearers. George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump declared their support for such exceptions. Their reasons were not hard to see: The exception was widely supported, even among Republicans in deeply conservative states.The most fervent anti-abortion activists felt differently. They never liked the exceptions, but they came to tolerate them. That was because until recent years, the anti-abortion movement had a plan: to win over as many Americans as possible, to make moderate Republicans comfortable working with them, and to maximize the chances of success before the Supreme Court. Fighting against rape and incest exceptions was not an immediate priority.Moreover, these exceptions were rarely used. Sexual assault and incest were (and are) massively underreported; many survivors who did come forward were not believed. Sexual violence was common, but at least officially, few abortions were justified on the basis of rape or incest. For anti-abortion advocates, convincing popular majorities took precedence over writing laws that would prevent abortions in all circumstances.Not anymore. Both the anti-abortion movement and the GOP have evolved, as has their relationship to each other. Some of this is about the Supreme Court. With six conservatives—including three Trump nominees—the Court seems poised to roll back abortion rights. Few anti-abortion activists are worried about building broad public support when they have a Court that looks willing to give them everything.Additionally, changes to campaign-finance rules have empowered donors, nonprofits, and super PACs that are further to the right. Noncompetitive districts and states have eliminated concerns for some Republicans about alienating voters. The new playbook, even before Trump took office, has focused on turning out the base, not building widespread appeal. As a result, there is little daylight between the GOP and the anti-abortion movement—including on the rape and incest exception.[Read: The messy post-Roe legal future awaiting America]The anti-abortion movement—and with it the GOP—can now focus on the recognition of fetal personhood. If the Supreme Court eventually recognizes fetal personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, that would make abortion unconstitutional nationwide. This will have implications well beyond the law of abortion.Thirty years ago, at the intersection of the failed War on Drugs and congressional attacks on welfare programs, rhetoric about the “crack mom” and “welfare queen” converged. These types of “bad moms” neglected their children while getting high on drugs and sapping state resources. This stereotype was trafficked for political expedience and “tough on drugs” law enforcement. The effects included poor Black women being shackled during labor and delivery; Black women being forcefully escorted from hospitals shortly after giving birth, taken away while still bleeding from birth without the aid of a sanitary napkin; and pregnant Black women being seized in a chokehold while almost full-term. Anti-abortion groups also equated the bad behavior of pregnant patients with child abuse. In South Carolina, Black women who took drugs while pregnant were charged with “distribution to minors and child neglect.” At the time, the Supreme Court seemed unwilling to reverse Roe, much less recognize fetal rights. So groups such as Americans United for Life set out to make Roe an outlier by recognizing fetal personhood in inheritance law, property law, personal-injury law, and even homicide law. Treating pregnant patients as child abusers flowed from the logic of personhood.Today, the past is prologue. Those claiming to defend fetal personhood have imposed criminal and civil punishments on pregnant people. They have arrested pregnant women who refuse Cesarean sections or fall down steps; denied chemotherapy to a pregnant cancer patient; and involuntarily committed pregnant women for threatening the health of a fetus during pregnancy. In Tennessee, prosecutors have offered plea deals to women who agreed to sterilization, until the practice was banned in 2015. Pregnant women have faced serious criminal charges for experiencing stillbirth, suffering a miscarriage that prosecutors attributed (with no evidence) to drug use, getting shot in the stomach during a physical altercation, and attempting suicide.In a post-Roe America, more punishments like this would not be surprising in conservative states. States that will criminalize abortion after the Supreme Court reverses Roe have vowed not to punish pregnant people.Nevertheless, the reasons for this pledge are clear: Most Americans oppose the idea of criminally punishing pregnant people, and the anti-abortion movement has tread carefully so as not to lose support. But as the elimination of rape and incest exceptions suggests, the thought of offending popular majorities may not matter for long.
COVID Parenting Is Reaching a Breaking Point
Parents know that winter is the season of sickness. Your kid will have approximately infinite colds. You, too, will have approximately infinite colds. Last winter, COVID precautions kept sickness at bay. But this year, school is in session, day-care colds are spreading fast, and the only cohort of people in America not yet eligible for COVID vaccination is our youngest children.Aside from promises of clinical-trial data by the end of the year, the timeline on which children younger than 5 might be vaccinated is still unclear. The parents of these kids are staring down months more of carefully weighing the risks of COVID against the benefits of indoor cheer. My own child, now 20 months old, was born in March 2020, so my entire experience of parenting has been pandemic-inflected. As the cold creeps down the East Coast, where I live, and nudges the people around me inside, I have been thinking about how the responsibility and anxiety of navigating around this one infectious disease might linger longer for the parents of small children than for most other Americans.Some days, the idea that my family will still have to be making these calculations far into 2022 feels impossible to grasp. How can it be that even after two years, I won’t be able to meet my friends and their kids at the aquarium, or a museum, or a pizza place without dedicating brain space to what we’re all risking? How are other parents handling this? As cases rise again and the season of sickness sets in, I asked that question to a small group of my Atlantic colleagues: Julie Bogen, a senior editor on the audience team, who has a 20-month-old Nick Catucci, a senior editor for newsletters, who has a 2-and-a-half-year-old Daniel Engber, a senior editor on the Science, Health, and Technology team, who has a 2-and-a-half-year-old and a 5-year-old Becca Rosen, a senior editor on the Ideas team, who has a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old. All of us live in New York City or Washington, D.C.—places with high vaccination rates—and, as Atlantic employees, we’ve all been able to work from home throughout the pandemic. All of our kids are, for at least part of the week, going to school or day care (at least until an inevitable fever triggers pandemic-era policies that require kids to stay away and get tested for COVID). All of us understand that the risk of healthy kids getting severe COVID is relatively low, but we are still limiting our activities to some extent. As a rule, we avoid taking our kids to busy indoor places, and we’re generally still choosy about whom we invite over. We were joined by Natalie Dean, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Emory University, who specializes in infectious-disease research and has, herself, a 4-year-old and an almost-2-year-old.What follows is a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of our conversation about the risks we’ve taken, the risks we might take, and the pressing questions we now have about America’s approach to childhood sickness.Sarah Laskow: I’m curious: What would change anyone’s COVID calculus at this point? For those of you with older kids, does having them vaccinated change anything at all?Daniel Engber: My daughter had her first dose of the vaccine and is going to get her second dose in a couple of weeks. I got really excited about the idea of let’s set up new rules for the family. And then we realized we didn’t even have clearly delineated old rules.I feel like some of our attitudes are shifting toward thinking about the state of community transmission—so if we come up with some new rules now, will they look different in a month if case rates are shooting up in New York City? That feels much harder to do. It’s a lot easier to think in terms of which or how many of us are vaccinated than to start thinking about these moving targets. Do we want to look by city, or county, or borough, or state? National rates? What should we be keeping track of? Or should we stop keeping track of anything and kind of abandon rules altogether?Laskow: It seems to me like a lot of parents are thinking that way. Well, once my kid is vaccinated, then I can change my behavior. Short of that, I don’t know what to do. Julie and I both had kids right at the beginning of the pandemic, and I wonder, for you, Julie, is there anything short of your child getting vaccinated that you think would change your behavior at this point?Julie Bogen: There was very briefly a period over the summer when people were getting vaccinated and mask mandates were still in place in Montgomery County when we were like, Oh, maybe we’ll take her to the grocery store. But right now, in part because of my husband’s job as a doctor who treats COVID patients, but also because of the notion of, like, Okay, well, if we do take a risk, and she gets sick or her day care closes, that’s another 10 to 14 days I have to be out of work, the disruption is so significant.Also I feel so paralyzed by judgment of other people and parents if we were to get sick. You know, like, Oh, you guys got COVID? Do you know how you got it? Did you do something irresponsible to get it? I really can’t think of anything short of my daughter getting vaccinated that would change our behavior right now. I feel like I don’t know how to not blame myself if something went wrong.Laskow: Natalie, does the availability of vaccines for older kids matter in any of these calculations?Natalie Dean: Having the older kids vaccinated does matter in the sense that kids have a certain set of people they interact with, and that includes older siblings. Just having fewer opportunities for the family to be impacted by needing to isolate or quarantine, that will certainly help. Older kids are also just a big chunk of the population that will be less likely to get infected and less likely to transmit once they’re fully vaccinated. But it’s going to be a long time, maybe never, that we’re going to see case rates really go to zero. I think we just need to be realistic about that—this virus is going to continue to circulate for a while.I also wanted to make a comment about this stigma. Because of the nature of the pandemic, there’s a lot of stigma about transmission, and I think we’re going to need to move past some of that as well. There’s not the same stigma about RSV or flu or these other respiratory pathogens, and they cause a pretty similar risk to kids. That would be another thing that, as we move forward, we need to grapple with.Becca Rosen: I’ve been trying to make the case among my friends and to colleagues that getting COVID is not a sign of personal failure. We live in a society with illness, and we don’t blame people when they get flu. We have to learn to not see getting COVID as a moral failure. Because this is something we have to live with, and the truth is that we will all be exposed.[Read: America has lost the plot on COVID]To tie that into what Julie was saying, the practical disruption of a COVID infection to people’s lives is so much worse than with RSV or with flu because of the policies we have in place. So it seems like we’re in a spot where we really, really do need to update our policies for a COVID-endemic world. Especially with our testing infrastructure still really dysfunctional, even testing negative to return to school after a COVID exposure can mean days out of work for a parent. For a lot of parents, that’s just not tenable.Dean: Part of living with the disease, too, is improving testing infrastructure in the way that we really need to get it to work. It doesn’t mean that testing needs to go away, but that it needs to be strengthened.Engber: I feel like when my older daughter is fully vaccinated, it increases my urge to ignore or subvert some of the policies. I just wonder if other parents have had that thought too. Like, if she’s fully vaccinated and has a stuffy nose and it might be allergies, am I going to really adhere to the rules of her school’s screening process? I feel my attitude toward the policies and their legitimacy is changing in real time.Rosen: I think the policy sometimes discourages people from testing. Because they don’t want to wait on a result or risk getting a false positive, which is just totally a perverse outcome.Bogen: Especially because the tests take so long. And my daughter’s day care doesn’t want her to come in if she has a pending COVID test. We test every time we go to our parents’ houses in Connecticut, for example, and because she has a pending test, we’re not supposed to send her. And it’s like, now we just don’t want to tell you.Laskow: How is everyone thinking about your responsibility to the other kids and parents in collective situations? If your kid is going to day care or school, do you think about what you could be bringing to that space? Or is it more about keeping your own family protected?Nick Catucci: I am on the knife edge, sending my daughter to day care five days a week, between being incredibly resentful every time she catches a cold from some other kid and then being like, How in the world am I not going to send her to day care today, even though she has the sniffles? And so I just rely on the school to tell me. We would never send her to school with a fever, because that’s one of the rules—a fever is really the only thing that excludes you. But she has had a runny nose and a cough for months, basically, and we just live with that.In my building, you have to put on a mask coming in and out of the building. And for my daughter … I just don’t. I flout it for my daughter. I don’t make her put a mask on for the two minutes that we’re walking to the elevator and taking the elevator up and going into our apartment. I put it on. And I am very pro-mask, but part of me is like, Why are we still doing this? I know a lot of people in this building are vaccinated. This seems silly.Laskow: I think part of what we’re circling around is this dynamic—Sarah Zhang wrote about this in an Atlantic article recently—that because we don’t have an agreement anymore about what the overall goal for COVID management is, we don’t have a shared set of rules that we’re moving toward. What I hear in this conversation is the frustration among people who have been taking COVID precautions and getting vaccinated and who are now running up against the limits of what’s possible with that.Rosen: My memory of being a new parent, for both kids, who were pre-pandemic babies, is that we were just sick all the time. There wasn’t the level of disruption to our lives now required by the policies of day cares and schools for testing and quarantining and everything—but it was still hugely disruptive. So I’ve just been thinking about the question of work and how, across society, we need to have better sick-leave policies to deal with not just COVID, but the childhood viruses that kids get all the time. How can we update our thinking about parenthood beyond the first couple of months of life to be more aware of the illnesses that kids and parents deal with? And how can work and school and all these other institutions that we interact with build illness into our real understanding of what people’s lived experiences are?Engber: Before the pandemic, there was the same kind of stigma and anger. I would feel like, So-and-so went to a birthday party with coxsackievirus, what a jerk. This heightened care that we’re taking with children—are there good parts of that, that should persist when the kind of acute phase of the pandemic is over? And what should that new normal look like for how cautious we are with our kids and infectious diseases?Laskow: I think my biggest question is: How much should I worry about my kid being an agent of spread as an unvaccinated person, given how many people around her are vaccinated? What is our responsibility as parents to other people, to keep our kid from infecting them? And then, what’s society’s responsibility toward us, as parents?Bogen: Right—what do we owe other people, given that they’re the ones who are vaccinated while our children are not? I still don’t know what I owe my own child, given that her risk is so low. I’m doing everything I can to protect her. My husband and I are doing everything we can to protect the people around us. But, you know, we’re both vaccinated, and we’re still avoiding going to the grocery store with her. We still don’t eat indoors. We still see so few people. Are we missing out on huge areas of life and sanity restoration for nothing? I just don’t know.Laskow: Natalie, given that we’re moving toward endemic COVID, is there a certain point when parents should shift their thinking about any of this? Or what’s the point at which we can stop thinking about this at all?Dean: When will we stop being able to think about it at all? That might be a ways off. I think that there is going to be this new normal that will involve some level of different procedures for day cares and kids around all illnesses.I really do weigh, if the situation is not going to change that quickly, what am I willing to add back to my life that I think is valuable? Of course, we should acknowledge people who have children who are immunocompromised—that requires really working out a plan with their specialists and requires a different set of considerations. But for otherwise healthy children, because the risks remain low, I want them to be able to have some fun. And so I’m letting them have playdates, for the most part still outdoors. But when the weather is yucky, it can be indoors—we have been doing maskless play dates with one other family. My thinking has shifted to a longer time horizon, because this is going to stick with us for a while. I don’t want to wait forever to resume some of those things.Laskow: I think that ultimately that is the challenge of being a parent in the pandemic. It’s been a long, long time now, and we want our kids to have lives. And if they don’t experience things now, then they won’t experience them at that time in their life, which is a pretty intense calculation in the end.Rosen: Yeah, I mean, it really gets me, what my daughter went through when she was 5. We basically cut off all her closest friendships for months on end. And I think friendships at that age are so formative and so foundational to who you become. I think kids deserve a lot at this point. They’ve been through a lot. My daughter will say to me, “Your childhood was so special because you don’t have to deal with a pandemic.” My 7-year-old articulates that. She gets what she’s been through and how abnormal and hard it was.
The Inventors of America’s Most Dangerous Idea
Conservatives in America have, in recent months, used the idea of freedom to argue against wearing masks, oppose vaccine mandates, and justify storming the Capitol. They routinely refer to themselves as “freedom-loving Americans.” Freedom, as a cause, today belongs almost entirely to the right.This was not always the case. In the early 1960s, civil-rights activists invoked freedom as the purpose of their struggle. Martin Luther King Jr. used the word equality once at the March on Washington, but he used the word freedom 20 times.The conservative use of the idea of absolute freedom, of freedom as your personal property, to shift American politics to the right came shortly after King’s speech, and indeed was a direct reaction to his argument that one’s own freedom depended on everyone else’s. This wasn’t an organic response. Rather, conservative activists and business leaders designed an opposite idea of American freedom to protect their own interests. That effort can be seen in the role played by one of the most overlooked yet powerful forces in 20th-century America: the nation’s realtors.In 1963, California, with half of the country’s realtors, passed a fair-housing law to limit housing discrimination. Realtors decided to fight back. They asked voters to approve a state constitutional amendment, Proposition 14, prohibiting the state and any municipality from ever limiting residential discrimination in any way.Realtors had big incentives for maintaining segregation. Having invented it in the early 1900s as a marketing tool for selling homes, they had made segregation central to their business practices. They created racial covenants to exclude members of minority groups from new developments, existing neighborhoods, and entire cities and shaped federal redlining maps, all premised on the idea that anyone selling to minority families was destroying the future of all the neighbors. Any broker who did so was therefore destroying his future business. Despite the Supreme Court outlawing court enforcement of racial covenants in 1948, realtors used racial steering—such as lying to minority prospective buyers that a home had just been sold and controlling newspaper real-estate listings—so effectively that by the early ’60s, Black Americans were excluded from 98 percent of new homes and 95 percent of neighborhoods.[Read: The unfulfilled promise of fair housing]But in asking voters to constitutionally authorize residential discrimination in Proposition 14, realtors had a fundamental problem. How, at the height of the civil-rights movement, could they publicly campaign for sanctioning discrimination in California? No state’s constitution, even in the Deep South, had such a provision. No prominent politician—not Barry Goldwater, not Ronald Reagan—would support the realtors for fear of seeming racist.Victory would depend, realized Spike Wilson, the president of the California Real Estate Association, on convincing the large majority of white voters—who did not want to see themselves as racially prejudiced in any way—that the realtors were campaigning not for discrimination but for American freedom. Realtors would need to secretly and systematically redefine American freedom as the freedom to discriminate—to challenge the idea at the heart of the civil-rights movement itself.The first step was inventing what became known as “color-blind freedom” to justify discrimination. Per Wilson’s request, the national realtors’ organization created a secret action kit to oppose fair housing everywhere. The kit’s detailed scripts instructed realtors to “focus on freedom” and avoid “discussion of emotionally charged subjects,” such as “inferiority of races.” This kit, weighing a pound and a half and distributed to the local real-estate board in every American city, provided form speeches, Q&As, and press releases for their cause. Freedom, the kit explained, meant each owner’s right to discriminate, and realtors were in favor of “freedom for all”: the equal rights of all owners to choose whom to sell to. Realtors claimed that they, unlike civil-rights advocates, were color-blind.The key to color-blind freedom was what was left out. Wilson drafted a Property Owners’ Bill of Rights that realtors advertised in newspapers nationwide, emphasizing owners’ absolute right to dispose of their property—never mentioning anyone’s right to buy or rent a home in the first place. The right to be treated equally, to not be discriminated against, to choose where to live, was not part of American freedom but a special privilege. Wilson therefore claimed that “militant minorities have organized and vocalized for equal rights until equal rights have become special privileges.” Color-blind freedom meant that government must be oblivious to, must forever allow, organized private discrimination.Realtors thus made government the enemy, not minority groups. “Am I anti-Negro? By God, I am not. I am their champion,” Wilson insisted at a meeting of apartment owners, the Los Angeles Times reported. By making state bureaucrats the enemy, realtors could be on the side of the underdog, the individual owner. Proposition 14, realtors claimed, was not about race but about “the rights of the individual.”This idea of absolute individual rights was at the heart of how realtors redefined American freedom. Freedom of choice was blazoned on L.A. freeway billboards. To discriminate simply means to choose, realtors insisted. Freedom of choice required the right to discriminate.This became Wilson’s most important argument to millions of Californians who did not want to see themselves as racially biased. To be in favor of Proposition 14, to limit where millions of fellow Americans could live, did not mean that you were prejudiced but that you believed in individual freedom.Calling the realtors’ campaign “Gettysburg—1964!” in the monthly magazine California Real Estate, Wilson cited Abraham Lincoln: “We are involved in a great battle for liberty and freedom. We have prepared a final resting place for the drive to destroy individual freedom.”King recognized the danger of the realtors’ ideology. Rushing from ongoing civil-rights conflicts in the South, he warned at a freedom rally in Fresno, a few miles from Wilson’s office, “If this initiative passes, it will defeat all we have been struggling to win.” King’s terms evoked his speech at the March on Washington, but he was now defending shared freedom not against southern diehards but against northern salesmen promoting color-blind “freedom of choice.”Proposition 14’s sweeping passage stunned politicians in both parties. The realtors’ victory was overwhelming, with 65 percent of the total votes in favor, including 75 percent of the white vote and 80 percent of the white union vote. Two years later, in 1966, when the California Supreme Court ruled Proposition 14 unconstitutional, Reagan, running for governor, adopted the realtors’ cause and their message as his own: “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.”[Read: The racist housing policy that made your neighborhood]Reagan and other conservatives saw that the realtors had zeroed in on something extremely powerful—something whose full force would not be limited to housing segregation but could be used on virtually any issue.The timing was crucial. At the very moment when liberalism seemed most dominant—on the same 1964 ballot where Lyndon B. Johnson had crushed Goldwater by the largest landslide in history—realtors had shown how conservatives could succeed. If this idea of freedom could triumph in California, it could work anywhere.The realtors themselves ultimately lost their war against fair housing when Congress passed a fair-housing bill, weakened by the shadow of Proposition 14, days after King’s assassination in 1968. Realtor organizations today distance themselves from their past role in segregation. Dave Walsh, the president of the California Association of Realtors (the modern-day incarnation of the California Real Estate Association) acknowledged by email the “sad truth that real estate agents, REALTOR® associations, real estate developers, government officials, and others developed and supported systems and policies designed to exclude people of color, especially Blacks, from many neighborhoods and homeownership opportunities.” He added that realtors today “must own the fact that in the past, we advocated for” rights that supported discrimination. But though realtors have disavowed their past arguments, the vision of freedom they created has had lasting effects on American politics as a whole.This vision of freedom proved so enduring because it solved three structural problems for American conservatism.First, realtors used the language of individual freedom, of libertarianism, to justify its seeming opposite, community conformity. Here was a way to unite the two separate and competing strands of conservatism, to link libertarians and social conservatives in defense of American freedom—and create the way many, if not most, Americans understand freedom today.Thus, the more disparate the issues on which this idea of freedom was invoked—abortion, guns, public schools, gender rights, campaign finance, climate change—the more powerful the message became. The conservative movement’s ability to grow and thrive depended not on an adventitious alliance but on a unifying idea: freedom of choice.Second, by defining as freedom what government seemed to be taking away from “ordinary Americans,” realtors helped create a polarizing, transcendent view of what was at stake in our politics. As one homeowner described Proposition 14 in a Sacramento Bee letter to the editor, “We are fighting for our rights, and this, voters, is the only way we can do it. It appears to be our last chance.” This picture of government taking away your rights would provide a compelling reason, far beyond economics, for millions of union members, Catholics, and white Americans who had long been part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s coalition to see, in issue after issue, why they should define themselves as conservatives.Timeliest of all, the realtors’ redefinition of freedom offered a common ideology for something new in modern America: a national conservative political party. First proposed by southern racists in 1948 to protect Jim Crow, it would have white southerners abandon the national Democratic Party in return for a pledge from pro-business northern Republicans to protect local racial customs. This proposed party, devoted to limiting federal regulation of business and civil rights, could dominate American politics and push it to the right for generations to come.Such party, when it finally emerged after Goldwater’s defeat, needed a publicly acceptable ideology that could work in both the North and the South. The realtors’ color-blind freedom, which had proved so successful in California, could unite southerners, working-class northern Democrats, and conservative and moderate Republicans in a new national majority party—one very different from the Republican Party whose congressmen had voted 80 percent in favor of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.[Read: The only thing integrating America]Over time, the internal dynamics of a national conservative party would only push it further and further toward those who most ardently embraced the realtors’ vision of freedom as the only meaning of American freedom. This dynamic has produced today’s Republican Party.Republican politicians now view every issue through this single lens: that American freedom means placing one’s own absolute rights over those of others. To go against that credo, to view freedom as belonging to the country itself and, as such, to everyone equally, threatens the party’s most basic tenet.This idea of freedom is based on a technique that the realtors perfected. They identified a single, narrow, obscure right, an owner’s right to choose a seller—which realtors themselves had restricted for decades with racial covenants—as American freedom itself. Elevating as absolute a right rarely mentioned before, so government cannot limit it or protect the rights of others, became the model for the conservative movement. The concept can be and has been used regarding virtually any issue.Everything that is not one of these carefully selected rights becomes, by definition, a privilege that government cannot protect, no matter how fundamental. Since January 6, two-thirds of Republicans—more than 40 percent of all Americans—now see voting not as a basic right, an essential part of our freedom, but as a privilege for those who deserve it.This picture of freedom has a purpose: to effectively prioritize the freedoms of certain Americans over the freedoms of others—without directly saying so. By defining freedom as they did, realtors did not have to say that it belonged more to some Americans than others. But it did—and it has ever since.
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