The Senate, in a bipartisan 66-32 vote on Monday evening, confirmed Mike Pompeo to be the next CIA director. Pompeo was in his fourth term in the House. The only Republican to vote against Pompeo was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The other 31 votes against Pompeo came from Democrats. As my colleague Russell Berman writes:
Pompeo’s harshest critic was Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a privacy hawk who delivered a lengthy speech criticizing the Kansas Republican’s “enthusiasm” for broad surveillance programs and what he said were Pompeo’s shifting positions on torture and on Russia’s interference in the November election. Other Democrats had said they were satisfied with Pompeo’s assertion during his confirmation hearing that he would not restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques in violation of the law, even if Trump ordered him to do so.
Snapchat Filter Not Responsible for Distracted Driver Claim, Judge Rules
A lawsuit claiming Snapchat was to blame for a high-speed car crash was dismissed by a Georgia court Friday, citing the social media company’s immunity under the Communication’s Decency Act. The case was brought against Snapchat in April by Wentworth and Karen Maynard, who claimed the application’s “speed filter,” which shows how fast the phone is moving at the time the photo or video is taken, caused 18-year-old Christal McGee to crash into Wentworth Maynard’s car while driving at 107 miles per hour (171 kilometer per hour), leaving Maynard with severe brain damage. McGee, who was also sued by the Maynards, claimed she was “just trying to get the car to 100 miles per hour to post it on Snapchat.” In his ruling Friday, Spalding County State Court Judge Josh Thacker said the social media company was exempt from liability under the CDA’s immunity clause, which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Snapchat’s attorneys told the Associated Press Monday the ruling reaffirms the need for “responsible use of these technologies by the driver.”
The First Drone Strikes Under Trump Target Al-Qaeda in Yemen
The U.S. carried out several drone strikes in Yemen over the weekend targeting al-Qaeda leaders, marking the first drone strikes under the new Trump administration. The bombings hit the country’s southwestern Bayda province, and among the targets was Abu Anis al-Abi, a field commander with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. These strikes did not necessarily require Trump to sign off on them, because the Obama administration enabled the four-star commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, to oversee strikes. Drone strikes increased to unprecedented levels under Obama, much to the anger of human-rights groups, which decry their use because of the risk of collateral damage. On Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials released a report saying that under Obama as many as 117 civilians died in drone bombings. These numbers, however, are often viewed as extremely low by human rights groups.
Trump Signs Executive Order Withdrawing From the TPP
President Trump signed an executive order Monday to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a longstanding campaign pledge. The TPP, a project initiated by the Obama administration, would have placed the U.S. and 11 Asia-Pacific countries in an unprecedented free-trade zone. Trump’s executive order pulls the U.S. out of that deal, an effort to refocus on putting “America first,” as the president repeated in his inauguration address Friday. The trade deal had been a tough sell for both major political parties, with former-President Obama struggling to convince even Democrats of its worth because it had been painted during the election campaign as detrimental to U.S. manufacturing. Until this election, trade deals had received mostly bipartisan support. Trump has also said he wants to renegotiation the NAFTA, which set up a free-trade zone from Mexico to Canada.
Trump Reinstates Mexico City Rule, Blocking U.S. Funding for Abortion Services Worldwide
President Trump, in one of his first acts since assuming office, reinstated Monday a policy blocking U.S. funding for health programs that provide abortions or related services overseas. Known commonly as the Mexico City policy or the “global gag rule,” the policy restricts foreign organizations receiving U.S. family-planning funding from conducting any abortion-related services, even if they are conducted with non-U.S. funds. Since it went into effect in 1984, the policy has routinely been enacted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones. As my colleague Anna Diamond writes:
Now, the signing of the order is filled with symbolism. Always falling on or within days of the January 22nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it’s become a way for the incoming president to signal to his party and supporters an initial commitment for or against abortion rights.
A Violent California Storm Destroys an Iconic Concrete Ship
A harsh storm hit the California coast this weekend and set surf records, with wave heights reaching nearly 35 feet in some places. They were particularly violent near Santa Cruz, about 80 miles south of San Francisco, where the storm wrecked a local icon, a historic World War I concrete ship called the S.S. Palo Alto. Then-President Woodrow Wilson ordered a fleet of concrete ships built in 1917, and while other ships had been made of this material, none had ever been made so large—420 feet long. The S.S. Palo Alto was one of 24 others built at the time, and it came to rest near Santa Cruz in 1930, where it connected to a pier and became a famous icon of the beach. The ship’s hull had been crumbling for some time, and over the decades it served as a home for the area’s wildlife, like sea lions, fish, and sea birds. In the mid-2000s, a leak in the ship’s tank spilled old oil into the waters and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $1.7 million to clean up the fuel. This weekend’s storm sent waves crashing against the hull and split off the stern. It’s unclear what will be done with the crumbling remains.
What was once a solid structure, is now in 2 pieces. The S.S. Palo Alto's stern has taken enough beating and gave-in to Mother nature. pic.twitter.com/ljRytxwpf7
Syrian Government, Rebels Meet for Talks in Kazakhstan
Representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups are meeting in Astana, the Kazakh capital, for the first time in more than a year for talks on ways to end the more than five-year-long civil war. Russian, Turkish, and Iranian officials are also attending; the three countries brokered a cease-fire between the fighting factions December 30. Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, and military officials are representing the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Mohammad Alloush of the Army of Islam is leading the rebel delegation. Talks are scheduled to continue until Tuesday.
The Trump Administration's War of Words With the Media
President Trump was inaugurated in Washington, D.C., Friday. A day later, a women’s march in the city, and others across the country and the world, vowed to oppose some of the Trump administration’s policies. Photographs from both events, coupled with crowd estimates, suggested more people turned out to the march in Washington than the inauguration. Trump and his aides apparently disagreed. At an appearance Saturday before the CIA, the president railed against the media, calling it “dishonest.” Later, Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, repeated those claims, adding: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”—a demonstrably false claim. On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, went on NBC’s Meet the Press, and countered the view Spicer was lying, adding “our press secretary gave alternative facts to that.” When Chuck Todd, the show’s host, asked Conway why Spicer had said something that was clearly not true, she replied: “If we're going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms, I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship here.” Trump himself initially criticized Saturday’s protest march, saying on Twitter he “was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote?” He later tweeted out a more conciliatory message:
Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.
A series of crises has again brought the administration below its baseline of chaos—but this time, can the president recover?
That old sinking feeling is back.
There have occasionally been stretches of time that are good for the Trump administration. There have more often been stretches that are bad, though there is a baseline of chaos that has come to feel almost normal. And occasionally, there have been truly hellacious stretches: May 2017, when Donald Trump fired then–FBI Director James Comey; August 2017, around the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia; January 2018, around the release of Fire and Fury; December 2018–January 2019, when Defense Secretary James Mattis quit and Trump forced and then blinked on a government shutdown.
Now the administration is experiencing another one of those stretches. Even by the strained standards of the Trump presidency, the past couple of weeks have brought an astonishing raft of bad news for the White House.
The bedroom can seem to contain the heart of a marriage. In the 2012 Judd Apatow movie This Is 40, the epicenter of marital tension is the bedroom of the onscreen couple, played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Pete and Debbie are as comely as their Los Angeles home, but the couple flirt with divorce fantasies more than with each other. Debbie mourns a loss of mystery; Pete craves independence. Of a kind, anyway. He’ll shed his boxers so that Debbie can weigh in on the progress of a hemorrhoid, but he also has a habit of sneaking off to hang with his buddies, an act his wife likens to infidelity. A scene in bed captures the riddle at the heart of this marriage—a parry, essentially, between forms of intimacy. Wander too far in search of privacy, and you nullify romance; get too close, and the same occurs. The couple lie under the sheets, Debbie on her laptop and Pete passing gas. “This is why we never have sex,” she says with desperation in her voice, as he grins. “You’re gross.”
Republicans doing the president’s bidding at the House impeachment hearing were focused less on the truth than on how it got out—like a modern-day version of Richard Nixon’s infamous leak patrol.
Last week’s Republican rallying cry on impeachment was “Hearsay!” By this morning, the focus had turned back to the whistle-blower who started it all.
The consensus GOP retort to the first three public witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry—Ambassadors William Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch, and George Kent, a deputy secretary of state—was that none of them had direct, firsthand knowledge of President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to condition aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival.
When they arrived at the Capitol this morning, however, Republicans could no longer make that complaint. The witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee—Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence—were both listening in on the July 25 call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him “a favor” by pursuing an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
People in different regions of the U.S. have measurably different psychological profiles.
A few years ago, Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, dug into a question that has captivated him for decades: Do different places have different personalities? Do people in Los Angeles, for instance, have measurably different temperaments from the residents of Augusta, Georgia? If so, what does that mean for both places? Rentfrow decided to test these questions on a phenomenon that has captivated all of America lately: the rise of Donald Trump.
Together with his co-authors, Rentfrow analyzed a set of surveys that had been conducted from 2003 to 2015 in 2,082 U.S. counties—about two-thirds of all the counties in the country. The surveys asked 3 million people 44 questions about their habits and dispositions. Rentfrow and his co-authors focused on neuroticism, a tendency to feel depressed or anxious and to respond more severely to stress. Neuroticism is one of the “big five” traits that psychologists often use to measure personality. The study authors compared each county’s level of neuroticism with whether those counties later voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and whether they had historically voted for Republicans.
The emails of a key presidential aide show an extremist ideology influencing policy in the White House.
Stephen Miller’s liberal critics were right after all. The influential White House aide and immigration hard-liner has long been a liberal target. Prominent conservatives such as the National Review editor Rich Lowry have defended Miller as a “wunderkind” and praised his “knowledge, energy, and doggedness.” But liberals have maintained for years that Miller is pushing an agenda far more sinister than straightforward immigration restriction.
A cache of Miller’s emails, provided by the former Breitbart News staffer Katie McHugh tothe Southern Poverty Law Center, draws a straight line between the Trump administration’s immigration policies and previous, explicitly racist immigration laws. The emails show Miller praising racist immigration restrictions from a century ago, while bitterly lamenting the law that repealed them.
Thirty-one-year-old Andrew Giuliani finds himself in a surprisingly comfortable corner of the White House—for now.
It’s hard to turn on cable news or scroll through Twitter these days without catching the name “Giuliani.” Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, is a central character in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, Rudy’s third wife, Judith Giuliani, has commanded her own headlines as she’s aired details of the couple’s contentious, ongoing divorce proceedings. Scarcely mentioned, however, is Andrew Giuliani—the former New York mayor’s 31-year-old son—who works in the White House.
Rudy Giuliani told me his son’s hire “wasn’t the usual ‘hire my kid’ situation.” “He’s known the president since he was a baby,” Rudy said. “Now, did he know him in the first place because he was the mayor’s son? Sure, but they also had a relationship independent of me.”
By migrating in huge herds, bison behave like a force of nature, engineering and intensifying waves of spring greenery that other grazers rely on.
Chris Geremia was surprised. After considerable effort, and substantial risk to life and limb, he and his colleagues finally had the results from their decade-long experiment, and those results were both clear and unexpected: Bison do not surf.
Specifically, bison (or buffalo) don’t follow the waves of new shoots that burst from the ground every spring. This phenomenon, known as surfing the green wave, allows animals to eat plants at their most nutritious, when they’re full of nitrogen and proteins and low in indigestible matter. Such freshness is fleeting, and so grazers undertake large migrations to track the new greenery as it crests across the landscape. Over the past decade, scientists have shown that mule deer, barnacle geese, elk, elephants, Mongolian gazelles, and a dozen other species all do this. Geremia wanted to see whether bison, which once formed the largest grazing herds in North America, follow the same pattern.
A small, private higher-education institution in Massachusetts long known as Lasell College recently underwent a subtle but significant transformation: It changed its name. Now the school goes by Lasell University. Its longtime president, Michael B. Alexander, described the new name as “aspirational.” He thinks it better reflects the breadth of the school’s offerings, and hopes the university designation will make it seem more appealing, particularly to international students.
Manycolleges—often obscure ones of middling selectivity—have converted to universities in recent years, seemingly in the hopes of raising their profiles. But whether there’s a material distinction between a college and a university depends on whom you ask—and many people don’t know the difference.
On paper, he’s exactly what many Democratic voters say they want.
CONCORD, N.H.—“We! Will! Rise!” Cory Booker’s supporters chanted as he made his way down the hallway of the New Hampshire statehouse to file for the primary on Friday morning. “We will rise,” Booker wrote on a copy of the primary-ballot announcement that the secretary of state had, for commemorative purposes, asked all the candidates to sign. Booker had a hard time squeezing his words in, because of all the other names already taking up most of the space.
The slogan is meant to be a proud one. The words, borrowed from Maya Angelou and the civil-rights movement, have always inspired Booker; today, they fit neatly into his call for a beleaguered country to transcend the damage done by Donald Trump. But at this point, given Booker’s standing in the polls (he’s consistently stuck around 10th place in the field), they can come off as plaintive. Still, Booker and his aides remain hopeful that, in retrospect, the line will prove to have been clairvoyant.
Thirteen years ago, a young woman was found dead in small-town Texas. She was nicknamed “Lavender Doe” for the purple shirt she was wearing. Her real identity would remain a mystery until amateur genealogists took up her case.
The dead girl had perfect teeth.
That’s what so many of the strangers who obsessed over her case online noticed, and one of the few things that could even be noticed. Her body was burned so badly as to be unrecognizable when she was found in the early hours of October 29, 2006, near Longview, Texas.
The two men who saw her thought, at first, that they had stumbled across a mannequin set on fire, perhaps as an early Halloween prank. It was the smell that alerted them to something more sinister in the woods—a smell like charred hot dogs. When they stepped closer, they realized the awful and obvious truth. A human being had been killed, then doused in gasoline and set on fire, and probably only minutes before: Her body was still ablaze.