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 secret history of the U.S. government’s family-separation policy
As a therapist for children who are being processed through the American immigration system, Cynthia Quintana has a routine that she repeats each time she meets a new patient in her office in Grand Rapids, Michigan: She calls the parents or closest relatives to let them know the child is safe and well cared for, and provides 24-hour contact information.
This process usually plays out within hours of when the children arrive. Most are teens who have memorized or written down their relatives’ phone numbers in notebooks they carried with them across the border. By the time of that initial call, their families are typically worried, waiting anxiously for news after having—in an act of desperation—sent their children into another country alone in pursuit of safety and the hope of a future.
Democrats in the Senate passed a bill that would, for the first time ever, use Congress’s power to push the U.S. to decarbonize.
Updated at 5:19 p.m. on August 7, 2022
Climate change was born as a modern political issue in the United States Senate. On a hot June day in 1988, a senior NASA scientist warned a Senate committee that global warming, which was previously mooted only as a hypothesis, was not only real but already under way. “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here,” James Hansen said.
An auspicious start, and an ironic one. Since then, the fight against climate change in the United States and abroad has been defined by one constant: You can’t get the Senate to do anything. For 34 years, the upper chamber’s peculiar failure to act on the issue has shaped nearly every facet of policy and politics. Because the Senate could not pass a comprehensive climate bill, Congress could not; because Congress could not pass a climate bill, climate-concerned presidents had to rely on executive action and the permissiveness of the Supreme Court, and climate activists had to win smaller state and local reforms. This uniquely American reliance on regulatory, state, and local climate policy has never quite worked—the country still lacks a comprehensive plan to decarbonize its electricity sector, for instance, which remains dirtier than Western Europe’s—and it has been too disjointed to help the United States transition away from fossil fuels.
The first generation to grow up with social media, Millennials are now becoming the first generation to age out of it.
It took me two years to post my first TikTok. I’d press “Record,” mumble into the camera, and hastily hit delete before anyone could see just how awkward I was on video. I took the plunge only after practicing enough to eliminate any telltale signs that I was a near-30-year-old trying to be cool. Or so I thought.
Apparently, I’m still guilty of the “Millennial pause.” After hitting “Record,” I wait a split second before I start speaking, just to make sure that TikTok is actually recording. Last year, @nisipisa, a 28-year-old YouTuber and TikToker who lives in Boston, coined the term in a TikTok about how even Taylor Swift can’t avoid the cringey pause in her videos. “God! Will she ever stop being relatable,” @nisipisa, herself a Millennial, says. Gen Zers make up a larger portion of TikTok’s base, and have grown up filming themselves enough to trust that they’re recording correctly. Which is why, as short-form video comes to Instagram (Reels), YouTube (Shorts), and Snapchat (Spotlight), the Millennial pause is becoming easier to spot.
It may be getting better at dodging one of the immune system’s main defenses.
By the time a cell senses that it’s been infected by a virus, it generally knows it is doomed. Soon, it will be busted up by the body’s immunological patrol or detonated by the invader itself. So the moribund cell plays its trump card: It bleats out microscopic shrieks that danger is nigh.
These intercellular messages, ferried about by molecules called interferons, serve as a warning signal to nearby cells—“‘You are about to be infected; it’s time for you to set up an antiviral state,’” says Juliet Morrison, an immunologist at UC Riverside. Recipient cells start battening down the hatches, switching on hundreds of genes that help them pump out suites of defensive proteins. Strong, punchy interferon responses are essential to early viral control, acting as a “first line of defense” that comes online within minutes or hours, says Mario Santiago, an immunologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. At their best, interferons can contain the infection so quickly that the rest of the immune system hardly needs to get involved.
Growing up in the Bible Belt, I was taught that Church and state should never have been separate.
I was raised in a very specific American faith. This American faith is not patriotism, not a love of this country—though it contains some of that. Nor is it Christianity—though it contains some of that too. It is the belief that Church and state should never have been separate in American life, despite all the un-Christian aspects of the Founders, such as their distinctly secular philosophies and their explicit, repeated commitment to that separation. Today’s Christian nationalists have fought for this particular faith over decades.
And that fight paid off when, at the end of June, the Supreme Court released its long-awaited decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. Joseph Kennedy, a high-school coach, had sued the Bremerton School District for firing him for praying on the field at the conclusion of football games. Prayer in schools, a practice that had been considered illegal since Engel v. Vitale was decided in 1962, was instantly legal again. Conservative-Christian groups did nothing to hide their excitement. The American Center for Law and Justice, a legal-advocacy organization founded by Pat Robertson and run for decades by one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, issued a statement that read, “For a long time, countless progressive elites and liberals have emphasized that a wall of separation has been established between public life and religion. In reality, of course, there has never been a wall of separation.”
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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.
On a spring day in May last year, on a patch of land surrounded by water on Mexico City’s southern edge, a farmer and a scientist inspected rows of small cubes of mud that had sprouted seedlings. They were crouching on a chinampa, an artificial island that appears to float in Lake Xochimilco—part of a complex ecosystem where the Aztec empire once flourished.
The farmer, Dionisio Eslava, expected a good harvest of the mix of crops he’d planted earlier that year. He showed the agricultural scientist, Carlos Sumano, the sowing cubes he’d created with mud scooped up from the bottom of canals in a Mesoamerican farming technique. “They’re just about ready for transplanting,” Eslava said, carefully pulling a single cube from the ground and, after a closer look, returning it to its place with other chili-pepper plants.
Focusing on anything, let alone a book, has been hard lately. These are the titles that reignited our love for literature.
Reading is hard right now. The pandemic has pushed our already scattered attention spans to a crisis point. But even before 2020, stressors such as political chaos and the allure of our phones made it harder and harder to find the time and focus to get lost in a book. Even when we’re not living through a distracting moment, we will inevitably have personal fallow periods when reading as a habit and a respite just doesn’t happen.
Certain writing is able to grab us and shake us out of these ruts—by presenting a breakneck adventure we feel compelled to see through; by gently opening us back up to the thrill of a good story; by allowing us to spend time in the mind of a fictional character. When they appear to us at the right moment and in the right way, these books can act as a bridge that leads us back to the rewards of literature. Below, our staff members have compiled 12 books that rekindled our love for reading after a dry spell.
If he gets in next time, he won’t be dislodged by any means.
Yesterday, an ex-president who had tried to overturn a democratic election by violence returned to Washington, D.C., to call for law and order. Again and again, the speech reversed reality. The ex-president who had spread an actual big lie against the legitimacy of the 2020 election tried to appropriate the phrase big lie to use against his opponents. The ex-president who had fired an acting FBI director days before that official’s pension was due to be vested lamented that police officers might lose their pension for doing their job.
Yet scrape aside the audacity, the self-pity, and the self-aggrandizement, and there was indeed an idea in Donald Trump’s speech at a conference hosted by the America First Policy Institute: a sinister idea, but one to take seriously.
Scientists have known for decades that some people can be resistant to HIV infection. Why not the coronavirus, too?
Last Christmas, as the Omicron variant was ricocheting around the United States, Mary Carrington unknowingly found herself at a superspreader event—an indoor party, packed with more than 20 people, at least one of whom ended up transmitting the virus to most of the gathering’s guests.
After two years of avoiding the coronavirus, Carrington felt sure that her time had come: She’d been holding her great-niece, who tested positive soon after, “and she was giving me kisses,” Carrington told me. But she never caught the bug. “And I just thought, Wow, I might really be resistant here.” She wasn’t thinking about immunity,which she had thanks to multiple doses of a COVID vaccine. Rather, perhaps via some inborn genetic quirk, her cells had found a way to naturally repel the pathogen’s assaults instead.