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.
Trump loyalists have reacted to the search of the ex-president’s Mar-a-Lago residence with unhinged fury.
In a sane world, a partisan Republican reaction to the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home on Monday would be something like this: We don’t believe Trump did anything wrong. We’re skeptical about the Department of Justice’s actions, but we’ll wait to see the evidence before we make any sweeping claims or definitive judgments. Unfortunately, the reaction online, in the right-wing media, and even among lawmakers has been far from sane. It’s been unhinged and ominous.
MAGA-world denizens have called for violence and civil war, so much so that the phrase civil war was trending on Twitter Monday night. One user on Trump’s social-media platform, Truth Social, said, “Fuck a civil war, give them a REVOLUTION. We out number all of the 10 to 1.”
Stick shifts are dying. When they go, something bigger than driving will be lost.
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I drive a stick shift. It’s a pain, sometimes. Clutching and shifting in bumper-to-bumper traffic wears you out. My wife can’t drive my car, which limits our transit options. And when I’m at the wheel, I can’t hold a cold, delicious slushie in one hand, at least not safely. But despite the inconvenience, I love a manual transmission. I love the feeling that I am operating my car, not just driving it. That’s why I’ve driven stick shifts for the past 20 years.
That streak may soon be over. When it comes time to replace my current car, I probably won’t be able to get another like it. In 2000, more than 15 percent of new and used cars sold by the auto retailer CarMax came with stick shifts; by 2020, that figure had dropped to 2.4 percent. Among the hundreds of new car models for sale in the United States this year, only about 30 can be purchased with a manual transmission. Electric cars, which now account for more than 5 percent of car sales, don’t even have gearboxes. There are rumors that Mercedes-Benz plans to retire manuals entirely by the end of next year, all around the world, in a decision driven partly by electrification; Volkswagen is said to be dropping its own by 2030, and other brands are sure to follow. Stick shifts have long been a niche market in the U.S. Soon they’ll be extinct.
Rarely in the annals of public controversy has so much certainty been expressed in the face of such great ignorance. With very few exceptions, the Republican Party has coalesced around Donald Trump and expressed the fierce conviction that the Department of Justice’s decision to serve a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was a grotesque abuse of power.
There’s a notable problem with this conclusion: The American public still hasn’t seen the search warrant. Trump’s lawyers have it, and they’ve described it in vague terms, but they have not released it. One of his attorneys, Christina Bobb, appeared on Real America’s Voice (an obscure far-right media network) and said that the warrant sought “classified documents, evidence of a crime as far as classified documents go,” and “presidential records.”
Imperiled by Russian invaders, private citizens are stepping forward to do what Ukraine’s government cannot.
History has turning points, moments when events shift and the future seems suddenly clear. But history also has in-between points, days and weeks when everything seems impermanent and nobody knows what will happen next. Odesa in the summer of 2022 is like that—a city suspended between great events. The panic that swept the city in February, when it seemed the Russian invaders might win quickly, already feels like a long time ago. Now the city is hot, half empty, and bracing itself for what comes next.
Some are preparing for the worst. Odesa endured a 10-week German and Romanian siege during the Second World War, then a three-year occupation; the current mayor, Gennadiy Trukhanov, told me that the city is now filling warehouses with food and medicine, in case history repeats itself. On July 11, Ukrainian security services caught a Russian spy scouting potential targets in the city. On July 23, Russian bombs hit the Odesa docks, despite an agreement reached just the previous day to restart grain exports. The beautiful waterfront, where the Potemkin Stairs lead down to the Black Sea, remains blocked by a maze of concrete barriers and barbed wire. Russian-occupied Kherson, where you can be interrogated just for speaking Ukrainian, is just a few hours’ drive away.
Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
One hundred and sixty years ago, in this magazine, Henry David Thoreau lamented that humankind was losing contact with nature. “Here is this vast, savage, hovering mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard,” he wrote, “and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.”
The situation is undoubtedly worse today; after all, the percentage of Americans working outdoors fell from 90 percent at the beginning of the 19th century to less than 20 percent at the close of the 20th century. We show the same pattern in our pursuit of leisure: According to the Outdoor Foundation, Americans went on 1 billion fewer outings in nature in 2018 compared with 2008. Today, 85 percent of adults say they spent more time outside when they were kids than children do today.
The pandemic was supposed to ease high housing prices in coastal superstar cities. Instead, it spread them nationwide.
On an otherwise sleepy Saturday morning, cars were parked bumper to bumper along a suburban street. Couples formed a line around the block, nervously sipping coffee and double-checking paperwork. They were there to see a charming but decidedly modest house—early-’90s suburban, vinyl shutters, holly bushes—that had just come on the market. Twenty-four hours later, the home had sold for 20 percent above the asking price and $100,000 more than it had sold for in 2006 at the height of a so-called housing bubble.
That’s a story we’re used to hearing about the frenzied housing markets of coastal suburbs such as Orange County and Long Island. But this house wasn’t far from where I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky—a midsize city where local boosters are given to bragging about affordability. It’s a scene that’s playing out in more and more cities across the country, especially in regions once accustomed to a low cost of living, such as the South and the Mountain West.
The mediocre movie happens to be a fascinating vehicle for the star’s latest rebrand.
Read enough recent glossy-magazine features on Brad Pitt, and you’ll start picking up on some patterns. He tends to speak reverently about growing up in the Ozarks and less so about his life as a celebrity. He’s as adept at making off-the-cuff jokes as he is at speaking solemnly about the “craft.” He’s cool but artsy, even quoting Rumi and Rilke on occasion. He’ll readily pose in thousand-dollar outfits, but he says that he always tries to avoid putting his face on a film poster. The word rueful comes up a lot about his smile or his demeanor. He’s famous, but he’s sensitive—a guy with a lot of capital-F Feelings about his job.
The same could be said about his latest character in the action-comedy Bullet Train. An assassin code-named Ladybug, he’s reluctant about what he does for a living and would rather be anywhere else than aboard the high-speed Shinkansen racing across Japan. For one thing, he’s not the only passenger carrying out a potentially deadly mission; for another, he has no place to meditate or indulge in his newly zen outlook on life. Directed by David Leitch (Hobbs & Shaw) and adapted from Maria Beetle, Kōtarō Isaka’s best-selling novel, Bullet Train is stupid fun—all neon-drenched style over substance. It’s the kind of late-summer flick that coasts on nonsense, violence, and actors trying out questionable accents. The film is a solid showcase for hand-to-hand combat up until it devolves into CGI drudgery. It assembles an overqualified cast that includes Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Michael Shannon, then saddles them with forgettable characters. But as a Brad Pitt vehicle (in more ways than one), Bullet Train is a fascinating branding exercise.
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.
The first generation to grow up with social media, Millennials are now becoming the first generation to age out of it.
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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.