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.
The CDC’s latest COVID guidelines are the closest the nation’s leaders have come to saying the coronavirus crisis is done.
A quick skim of the CDC’s latest COVID guidelines might give the impression that this fall could feel a lot like the ones we had in the Before Times. Millions of Americans will be working in person at offices, and schools and universities will be back in full swing. There will be few or no masking, testing, or vaccination mandates in place. Sniffles or viral exposures won’t be reason enough to keep employees or students at home. And requirements for “six feet” will be mostly relegated to the Tinder profiles of those seeking trysts with the tall.
Americans have been given the all clear to dispense with most of the pandemic-centric behaviors that have defined the past two-plus years—part and parcel of the narrative the Biden administration is building around the “triumphant return to normalcy,” says Joshua Salomon, a health-policy researcher at Stanford. Where mitigation measures once moved in near lockstep with case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths, they’re now on separate tracks; the focus with COVID is, more explicitly than ever before, on avoiding only severe illness and death. The country seems close to declaring the national public-health emergency done—and short of that proclamation, officials are already “effectively acting as though it’s over,” says Lakshmi Ganapathi, a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. If there’s such a thing as a “soft closing” of the COVID crisis, this latest juncture might be it.
The first is the surge of Republican support for Donald Trump since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence.
The second is this summer’s flow of good news for the Democrats as the 2022 midterms approach. Democratic candidates are leading in Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As Politicoobserves, all-party primaries in Washington State show Democratic candidates running well ahead of their performance in 2010 and 2014, the last big Republican years. Democratic standing is rising in generic polling. Across the nation, indications are gathering that Republicans could pay an immediate political price for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Above all, the August economic news has turned good: gasoline prices declining, general inflation abating, job growth surging.
He has little option but to show loyalty to Trump even if it thwarts his own ambitions.
That the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Florida home has become a rallying point for Republicans—ever eager to demonstrate fealty to the former president and rage at government overreach—is not exactly a shock. What is noteworthy is how the news might shift political considerations in MAGA world.
In another universe, last week’s FBI search could have provided a perfect opportunity for a wannabe party leader like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to set himself apart. A reckless has-been running off with nuclear secrets? Not my president! But in this universe—and given this particular cult of personality—DeSantis has parked his wagon next to all the others encircling Trump.
“These agencies have now been weaponized to be used against people that the government doesn’t like,”DeSantis told a crowd on Sunday at an Arizona political rally alongside the GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and the Senate candidate Blake Masters. If the Florida governor had been gearing up to launch his own presidential bid, the FBI search—and what could come after—might be forcing him to rethink his plans. “Now that Trump is beleaguered and in legal trouble and the current narrative is Rally to the king!, he will rally to the king,” Mac Stipanovich, a Florida Republican strategist, told me.
The title of Paul Manafort’s memoir, Political Prisoner,is ridiculous, but at least he’s writing what he knows. For much of his professional life, Manafort served as a lobbyist and an image consultant for the world’s most prolific torturers. One of his clients, the Angolan revolutionary Jonas Savimbi, led an army that incinerated its enemies alive. Another of his clients, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, dumped hundreds of mutilated corpses in the streets to show the price of opposing him.
After spending 23 months in prison on charges of bank fraud, witness tampering, conspiracy, and tax evasion—the longest stretch in a low-security facility in Pennsylvania—Manafort now places himself in the same category as the victims of rape and beatings whose suffering he was once handsomely paid to minimize. This grotesque conflation feels like the fitting capstone to his career.
Why are sacramental beads suddenly showing up next to AR-15s online?
Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.
Their social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (“God wills it”) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.Influencers on platforms such as Instagram share posts referencing “everyday carry” and “gat check” (gat is slang for “firearm”) that include soldiers’ “battle beads,” handguns, and assault rifles. One artist posts illustrations of his favorite Catholic saints, clergy, and influencers toting AR-15-style rifles labeled SANCTUM ROSARIUM alongside violently homophobic screeds that are celebrated by social-media accounts with thousands of followers.
The danger is not organized civil war but individual Americans with deep resentments and delusions.
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I’ve been thinking about the threats against law enforcement and Trump’s barely veiled warning to Attorney General Merrick Garland about a “country on fire.” We should no longer wonder if we can avert a new era of political violence in the United States. It’s already here.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
Civil war is among the many terms we now use too easily. The American Civil War was a bloodbath driven by the inevitable confrontation between the Union and the organized forces of sedition and slavery. But at least the Civil War, as I said Friday on Morning Joe during a panel on political violence in America, was about something. Compared with the bizarre ideas and half-baked wackiness that now infest American political life, the arguments between the North and the South look like a deep treatise on government.
Last spring, my boyfriend sublet a spare room in his apartment to an aspiring model. The roommate was young and made us feel old, but he was always game for a bottle of wine in the living room, and he seemed to like us, even though he sometimes suggested that we were boring or not that hot.
One night, he and my boyfriend started bickering about which Lorde album is better, the first one or the second one. This kind of argument can be entertaining if the participants are making funny or interesting points, but they weren’t, and they wouldn’t drop it. The roommate was getting louder and louder; my boyfriend was repeating himself. It was Friday; I was tired. I snapped and said, loudly, “This conversation is dumb, and I don’t want to keep having it.” I knew it was rude, but I thought it was expedient, eldest-sibling rude. So I was sort of shocked when the roommate got up without a word, went into his room, slammed the door, and never spoke to me again.
The Romans enslaved people, enforced a rigid patriarchy, and delighted in the spectacle of prisoners being tortured at the Colosseum. Top minds of the ancient Western world—luminaries such as Aristotle, whose works are still taught in undergraduate lectures today—defended slavery as an entirely natural and proper practice. Indeed, from the dawn of the agricultural era to the 19th century, slavery was ubiquitous across the world. It’s hard to understand how our predecessors could have been so horrifically wrong.
We have made real progress since then. Though still very far from perfect, society is in many respects considerably more humane and just than it once was. But why should anyone think this journey of moral progress is close to complete? Given humanity’s track record, we almost certainly are, like our forebears, committing grave moral mistakes at this very moment. When future generations look back on us, they might see us like we see the Romans. Contemplating our potential moral wrongdoing is a challenging exercise: It requires us to perceive and scrutinize everything that humanity does.
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New York in the summer is a noisy place, especially if you don’t have money. The rich run off to the Hamptons or Maine. The bourgeoisie are safely shielded by the hum of their central air, their petite cousins by the roar of their window units. But for the broke—the have-littles and have-nots—summer means an open window, through which the clatter of the city becomes the soundtrack to life: motorcycles revving, buses braking, couples squabbling, children summoning one another out to play, and music. Ceaseless music.
I remember, the summer before I left for college, lying close to my bedroom box fan, taking it all in. Thanks to a partial scholarship (and a ton of loans), I was on my way to an Ivy League college. I was counting down the days, eager to ditch the concrete sidewalks and my family’s cramped railroad apartment and to start living life on my own terms, against a backdrop of lush, manicured lawns and stately architecture.
For years, HBO has treated power struggles as delicious entertainment, wringing gasps and jitters from fantasy kingdoms, crime clans, and media families riven by ambition. Now the alpha of prestige TV is undergoing its own drama. Last week, news broke that Warner Bros. Discovery would cut staff and rethink the programming strategy for HBO Max as it planned to merge that service with Discovery+. A presentation for investors asserted that the two streaming platforms are “unique and complementary” because, among other things, HBO Max is the “Home of ‘Fandoms,’” while Discovery+, an ecosystem teeming with reality shows and nature docs, is the “Home of ‘Genredoms.’”
The shake-up looks likely to most affect HBO Max’s original content, which is largely separate from the slate of critical-darling shows that HBO is most famous for. But the presentation nevertheless played into one of the key myths surrounding the tag prestige TV: the notion that high-quality shows transcend the confines of genre. Really, in many cases, they are a genre—a fact that HBO’s emergent masterpiece Industry embraces to glorious effect.