China's Premier Li Keqiang (C) visits after a strong earthquake hits Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, April 20, 2013. (Reuters)
Here's what we know about Saturday's massive earthquake that has, for the second time in five years, thrown China's Sichuan Province into despair: Over 200 people are either dead or missing. Over 11,000 are injured. 17,000 more are homeless, a number that will surely go up. And while the toll from this quake was much lighter than the May 2008 tremor that claimed nearly 70,000 lives, the damage done from this earthquake is significant. This is a major disaster.
In 2008, Beijing dispatched then-Premier Wen Jiabao to Sichuan right away, eager to correct an impression that it couldn't handle major crises. The avuncular Wen kindly reassured the region's grieving survivors -- famously referring to himself as "Grandpa" -- and promised a huge amount of government aid. The reaction this year was little different. Premier Li Keqiang flew directly to the town of Ya'an (near the epicenter) and reportedly spent the night in a tent as a gesture of solidarity with the earthquake's newly homeless survivors.
The takeaway from this tragedy is that Beijing, at long last, has learned how to handle natural disasters. After all, earthquakes aren't, at least on the surface, political: you can't accuse tectonic plates of fomenting dissent. The events in Sichuan provide the Chinese government with a rare public relations opportunity to gain legitimacy through crisis management.
Yet as we learned in 2008, even natural disasters have political consequences. Soon after the dust cleared and Premier Wen returned to Beijing, grieving survivors wondered angrily why so many of the county's schoolhouses collapsed while government buildings stood. And when the artist Ai Weiwei attempted to document each of the earthquake's victims in a piece of politically-inspired art, he was beaten and detained by local security forces. A natural disaster quickly turned into a shameful example of government corruption, an issue that increasingly poses an existential threat to Communist Party rule.
Will this time be different? Superficially, yes: The earthquake happened on a Saturday when far fewer children were in class, so China was spared a repeat of 2008's horrific school collapse tragedy. But now there are rumblings that the government is taking too long to provide shelter to the newly homeless. And then there's this, from the South China Morning Post:
But Zhang Xueming, a rescue worker from Wenzhou-based Blue Sky Rescue Team, said the road conditions were not the main problem. "Most of the tents are provided by companies and they all want them to be sent to major areas to get more public recognition," he said.
Later, the piece quoted a villager from a remote area who complained that the government is only taking care of those living in larger towns.
It's hard to imagine any government handling a disaster of this proportion seamlessly, and there are always going to be victims who feel unjustly compensated for their losses. But it'll be worth keeping an eye on the Chinese government's handling of this disaster in the coming days and weeks. Beijing might think that an earthquake, in comparison to, say, ethnic unrest in Tibet, is an apolitical crisis. But in China, where the Communist Party has a say in just about everything that goes on, politics can't be entirely escaped.
If Trump were right to blame all of his problems on messaging, perhaps the smooth-talking businessman could solve them. But he’s not.
Watching Anthony Scaramucci’s formal introduction as White House communications director on Friday, it was clear why President Trump wanted him for the gig.
Even though he’s never worked as a spokesman for anyone other than himself (and a great spokesman he was, bringing wide renown to an underachieving hedge fund), Scaramucci looked at home behind the lectern in the White House Briefing Room. Moreover, he was everything that Sean Spicer—the long-suffering press secretary who announced his resignation today—was not.
Where Spicer was nervous, tentative, and likely to stumble over his words, Scaramucci was smooth, relaxed, and confident. Where Spicer’s suits were often ill-fitting, Scaramucci was sharply tailored. Where Spicer was a career cog in the Republican machine, Scaramucci is a swaggering New Yorker who speaks in the same clunky business pidgin as the president and can drop names nearly as prodigiously too. (Goldman Sachs, Yankees president Randy Levine, and Harvard Law School were a few of Scaramucci’s mentions during his brief spell at the mic.) Where Spicer’s professions of praise for the president always seemed mousy, pleading, perhaps a little browbeaten, Scaramucci brought the sincere sycophancy that comes from truly adoring Donald Trump. When did Spicer ever say he “loves” the president?
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
The White House is threatening the special counsel and trying to dig up dirt on him, and the prospect that the president will try to fire him now seems very real.
The idea that Donald Trump might fire—or try to fire—Special Counsel Robert Mueller has bubbled up enough times to seem possible, but still improbable. For one thing (as Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, among others, can attest) press reports that this president might fire someone are frequently wrong. For another, it seemed that even Trump was prudent enough to avoid making the mistake that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Yet Trump has a knack for making the wildly implausible suddenly imminent. In the last 36 hours, the idea of Mueller being fired—and the political crisis it would likely set off—has become distinctly real. In an interview with The New York Times, Trump all but said he would fire Mueller if his investigation went into places Trump didn’t like. Since then, several reports have suggested that Trump’s defense strategy, as investigations probe deeper into his life and administration, is to attack Mueller and attempt to discredit him. Increasingly, the operative question seems not to be whether Trump will try to fire Mueller, but when he will do so and what will push him over the edge.
On Flower Boy the rapper suggests he’s not straight—and struggles with a stigma he helped propagate.
Tyler, the Creator became famous, in part, for being hateful. When his rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (“Odd Future” is fine) caught buzz around 2010, it was because of their delirious energy and Eminem-like love of mayhem. But it was their threats against women and “faggots,” delivered in song and on social media, that elevated them from subculture phenomenon to become essay prompt and political flashpoint. The likes of GLAAD and the band Tegan and Sara declared Tyler poisonous and asked the music industry to stop supporting him. Theresa May, back when she was home secretary of the U.K., took the extraordinary step of banning him from her country because his lyrics “encourage violence and intolerance of homosexuality.”
Trump doubles down on his performative war against the press by hiring the most skilled performers.
On the night of the 2016 election, Sean Spicer took a break from celebrating Donald Trump’s victory to demand that I “eat crow.”
I was standing in the New York Hilton ballroom waiting for Trump to deliver his victory speech, when Spicer approached me out of the blue, in the full glow of triumph. His impulse to gloat was understandable—the campaign had defied the polls, humiliated the pundits, pulled off the impossible. Spicer was in the mood to dunk on a reporter, and I was in his line of sight.
The confrontation didn’t last longer than a minute, and quickly devolved into Spicer calling me “dude” in that aggressive, sputtering style that would soon be immortalized on Saturday Night Live, while he accused me of “advocating for Hillary.” When he noticed I was recording him, he abruptly ended our conversation and stomped off.
Epic yet intimate, the director's new war film is boldly experimental and visually stunning.
What is Dunkirk?
The answer is more complicated than one might imagine. Director Christopher Nolan’s latest is a war film, of course, yet one in which the enemy scarcely makes an appearance. It is a $150 million epic, yet also as lean and spare as a haiku, three brief, almost wordless strands of narrative woven together in a mere 106 minutes of running time. It is classic in its themes—honor, duty, the horror of war—yet simultaneously Nolan’s most radical experiment since Memento. And for all these reasons, it is a masterpiece.
The historical moment captured by the film ascended long ago to the level of martial lore: In May 1940, in the early days of World War II, some 400,000 British and Allied troops were flanked and entrapped by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France. Although the Channel was narrow enough that the men could almost see across to England, the waters were too shallow for warships to approach the beaches. So a flotilla of some 700 civilian craft—the “Little Ships of Dunkirk”—made their way from Ramsgate in England to assist in the rescue.
President Trump’s press secretary has resigned in protest of the president's decision to name a former hedge-fund executive as communications director.
Updated on July 21 at 1:50 p.m.
The White House saw a dramatic shake-up in its communications team Friday, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned and President Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci, a former hedge-fund manager, to be the administration’s communications director.
The moves will have far-reaching, though as yet unpredictable, ramifications for a presidency that has not yet found its footing amid the rockiest relationship with the press in recent history. Trump has been unable to pass any of his major legislative priorities and finds himself beset by an investigation into whether his campaigncolluded with what U.S. intelligence agencies have called a Russian effort to sway the 2016 election in his favor, among other matters. He has reportedly blamed his communications staff for his travails.
There are no legal or ethical reasons for the special counsel to turn away if he discovers indications of misconduct that are unrelated to the original Russia inquiry.
President Trump is reportedly apoplectic over the possibility that Special Counsel Robert Mueller might look into his finances—specifically his tax returns—as part of Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump suggested in a New York Times interview that would constitute a possible “violation,” and according to the The Washington Post the president is already looking into whether he can pardon associates, family members, and himself.
But there are no legal or ethical reasons for Mueller to turn away if, during his investigation, he discovers crimes that are unrelated to the original inquiry.
“Mueller is the Department of Justice for the purposes of this investigation," said John Q. Barrett, a former assistant counsel in the special prosecutor’s office during the Iran-Contra affair who is now a law professor at St. John’s University.
Like many current presidential advisers, the new White House communications director and former Wall Street financier made a quick pivot from Trump basher to Trump loyalist.
Like many of Donald Trump’s closest non-family advisers, Anthony Scaramucci traveled a circuitous route into the inner orbit of the mercurial president.
The Wall Street financier and former Obama donor once called then-candidate Trump “a hack politician,” a big-mouthed “bully,” and “an inherited money dude from Queens County” and backed two other Republican presidential contenders, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, before embracing Trump as the party’s nominee.
Nearly two years later, Scaramucci, 52, is one of Trump’s most aggressive television surrogates and, as of Friday morning, the White House communications director.
In truth, the smooth-talking Long Island native—nicknamed “the Mooch”—made the transition from Trump basher to Trump loyalist quicker than many Republicans. After a 90-minute meeting with the candidate at Trump Tower in June 2016, Scaramucci was fully onboard and soon praised Trump as “a results-oriented entrepreneur capable of delivering bipartisan solutions to common-sense problems.” The soon-to-be GOP nominee, Scaramucci added, was “the only candidate giving an honest assessment of our country’s ideological decay.”
By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.