Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a pre-recorded statement Wednesday that he rejects President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border between the two countries. “Mexico does not believe in walls,” he said. “I have said it over and over again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.” Peña Nieto is scheduled to travel to Washington next week to meet with Trump. Earlier Wednesday, aides to the Mexican president said Peña Nieto was considering scrapping the trip after Trump signed an executive order which put into motion the construction of a border wall. There are still several questions remaining about his proposed border wall, including the cost of the project. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Mexico would eventually pay for the wall. Peña Nieto, in the video statement, did not mention whether he would still travel to the U.S.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Meets With Syria's Assad
Representative Tulsi Gabbard revealed Wednesday that she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a four-day fact-finding trip to Syria and Lebanon, and reaffirmed her opposition to U.S. funding for rebel groups opposing the Syrian leader. In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the two-term Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii said though she did not initially plan to meet with Assad, she did so because “we’ve got to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.” She later added in a statement: “This regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.” Gabbard has long supported Assad maintaining power. Conversely, both the Obama administration and its Western allies had repeatedly called for the ouster of Assad—who has been accused of war crimes—and have thrown their support behind some of the rebel groups opposing his regime during Syria’s nearly six-year civil war. President Trump has called for a different approach, arguing that the U.S. should focus instead on ISIS—a stance which Gabbard supports. As my colleague Krishnadev Calamur noted, Gabbard’s trip to Syria may constitute a violation of the Logan Act, which restricts unauthorized individuals from contacting foreign governments engaged in a dispute with the U.S. No one has ever been prosecuted under the act, though, and Gabbard is not even the first U.S. leader to make such a trip. Virginia state Senator Dick Black met with Assad government officials on a trip to Damascus in April, and has expressed hopes to return this year. Like Gabbard, Black has been a vocal opponent of regime change in Syria, and has previously praised Assad as “heroic.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 20,000 for the first time Wednesday, after hovering around that figure since the election of President Trump and boosted by several positive economic numbers over the past month. The Dow was at 10,000 in March 1999 and has more than recovered the ground lost during the Great Recession. But, as my colleague Adrienne LaFrance noted: “There’s nothing magic about the Dow hitting 10,000—or 11,000, or 15,000, or 19,000 for that matter. The number is just a calculation based on the sum of stocks from 30 major companies… .” Still, it does hold psychological significance among traders.
Mary Tyler Moore, the actress who captivated television audiences first on TheDick Van Dyke Show and then on TheMary Tyler Moore Show, has died, her representative told several news organizations. Moore, who was hospitalized earlier this month in Connecticut, was 80 years old. Moore is perhaps best known for her role in the eponymous show in which she played Mary Richards, a local news producer in Minneapolis, from 1970 to 1977. During the course of her career, Moore won six Emmys and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1980 for her work in Ordinary People. As my colleague David Sims notes, “Mary was a liberated woman in an era of television where such characters were scarce.”
Russia Arrests Kaspersky Lab Department Head for Alleged Treason
Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of computer-incidents investigation at Kaspersky Lab, was arrested over charges of treason, Russian media reported Wednesday. Kaspersky, the Moscow-based cybersecurity and anti-virus firm, issued a statement confirming the investigation, but said it concerned “a period predating [Stoyanov’s] employment at Kaspersky Lab.” Previous jobs listed on Stoyanov’s LinkedIn profile include a position at the Russian Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit. As Sputnik, the state-run Russian news agency, reports, Stoyanov was arrested in December alongside an employee with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), who has also been charged with treason, though the details of the investigation into either person remains unknown. Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist and security services expert, told the Associated Press that such an arrest was “unprecedented” for intelligence agencies and companies like Kaspersky, adding: “Intelligence agencies used to ask for Kaspersky's advice, and this is how informal ties were built. This romance is clearly over."
Usain Bolt Loses Gold Medal After Teammate Tests Positive for Doping
Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt was forced to hand one of his gold medals back Wednesday after his teammate Nesta Carter tested positive for doping during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Carter, 31, was found to have taken methylhexaneamine, a prohibited performance-enhancing substance, ahead of competing in the first leg of the Men’s 4x100 meter relay, for which he earned the Jamaican team first place alongside sprinters Michael Frater, Asafa Powell, and Bolt—all of whom were stripped of their medals. The loss of the medal for the Jamaican team propelled Trinidad and Tobago to gold, Japan to silver, and Brazil to bronze.
Several people were killed and wounded Wednesday after two explosions rocked the Dayah hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Death toll estimates have ranged from at least eight to 15 people. Somali police said a group of attackers affiliated with al-Shabaab, an Islamist group, detonated a car bomb into the gate of the hotel before storming inside and opening fire. It is unclear how many attackers were involved in the attack, though Colonel Mohamoud Abdi, a senior Somali police officer, told the Associated Press that four militants were killed. A second blast was also reported outside the hotel, injuring some people in the area, including journalists. Al-Shabaab controlled much of Somalia before it was driven out by African Union and Somali forces in 2011l the group remains an active threat and is known for targeting hotels and other public places.
Economist Intelligence Unit Downgrades U.S. to 'Flawed Democracy,' Citing Longstanding Problems
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Economist’s data arm, has downgraded the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy.” The move, the EIU said, wasn’t a result of President Trump’s election victory, but rather “the election of Mr Trump as US president was in large part a consequence of the longstanding problems of democracy in the US.” EIU counts 19 “full” democracies—down from 20—57 “flawed” democracies, including 17 of the EU’s 28 members; 51 “authoritarian” regimes; and 40 “hybrid” ones. Globally, the EIU said populist backlashes against the ruling elites in the U.S., U.K., and other Western countries “were an expression of deep popular dissatisfaction with the status quo and of a desire for change.” Norway tops the EIU’s Democracy Index; North Korea is last. Full index here
President Trump is expected Wednesday to announce his border wall with Mexico, fulfilling a longstanding campaign pledge that he believes will keep stop the flow of people crossing the border illegally. This morning he also said he’d order an investigation into voter fraud. Trump says he believes voter fraud cost him the popular vote, but most credible elections experts dismiss that such fraud exists on a large scale. Our Politics team will have more on Trump’s announcements.
In a new book, Matthew Desmond argues that to understand what keeps people poor, we need to take a good look at the rich.
In the United States, a staggeringly wealthy country, one in nine people—and one in eight children—is officially poor. Those figures have fluctuated only slightly over half a century, during which scholars and journalists have exhaustively debated the reasons for the lack of progress. Training their attention on the lives of the dispossessed, researchers have identified barriers that keep people at the bottom of the social ladder from climbing its rungs, and offered arguments that usually play out along ideological lines. According to conservatives, the most significant obstacles are behavioral: family breakdown and debilitating habits such as dependency and idleness, exacerbated, they believe, by the receipt of government handouts. According to liberals, the real problems are structural: forces such as racism and deindustrialization, which, they contend, have entrenched inequality and prevented disadvantaged groups from sharing in the nation’s prosperity.
The desire of parents to be truly original has had a perhaps unintended effect.
Baby names just aren’t what they used to be. You can see it these days in all the little Blakes and Emersons and Phoenixes and Robins—and if you can’t immediately tell whether I’m talking about boy or girl names, then ah, yes, that’s exactly it. When it comes to baby naming, we’re at peak androgyny.
The rise of gender-neutral names has been particularly notable in the past few years, but the shift has been a long time coming, according to Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park. In 2021, 6 percent of American babies were bestowed androgynous names, approximately five times the number in the 1880s. This is a small minority of babies born every year—obviously boy names such as Liam and obviously girl names such as Olivia still top the charts—but “anything that has changed by a factor of five in our culture is a big deal,” says Laura Wattenberg, the author of The Baby Name Wizard. The jump is big enough to make you wonder what’s going on: Could it be, as some headlines have proclaimed, that baby-name trends herald apostgender world?
In focus groups, Republican voters are brutal in their assessment of the former vice president.
Mike Pence is making little secret of his presidential ambitions. He’s written his book; he’s assembling his team; he’s mastered the art of the coy nondenial when somebody asks (in between trips to Iowa) if he’s running. In early Republican-primary polls, he hovers between 6 and 7 percent—not top-tier numbers, but respectable enough. He seems to think he has at least an outside shot at winning the Republican nomination.
And yet, ask a Republican voter about the former vice president, and you’re likely to hear some of the most withering commentary you’ve ever encountered about a politician.
In recent weeks, I was invited to sit in on a series of focus groups conducted over Zoom. Organized by the political consultant Sarah Longwell, the groups consisted of Republican voters who’d supported Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020. The participants were all over the country—suburban Atlanta, rural Illinois, San Diego—and they varied in their current opinions of Trump. In some cases, Longwell filtered for voters who should be in Pence’s target demographic. One group consisted entirely of two-time Trump voters who didn’t want him to run again; another was made up of conservative evangelicals, who might presumably appreciate Pence’s roots in the religious right.
Climate activists who worry that the world has too many people are joining an ugly tradition.
Scolding regular people for contributing to climate change is out of fashion. But scolding people for making new people is, apparently, totally fine. Many climate activists say the worst thing an individual can do, from an emissions perspective, is have kids. The climate-advocacy group Project Drawdown lists “family planning and education,” which are intended to lower fertility rates, as leading solutions to global warming. Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard historian and celebrated climate researcher, published an op-ed in Scientific American this month titled “Eight Billion People in the World Is a Crisis, Not an Achievement.”
In recent years, many climate advocates have emphasized human population itself—as opposed to related factors such as consumption and technology—as the driving force behind environmental destruction. This is, at bottom, a very old idea that can be traced back to the 18th-century cleric Thomas Malthus. It is also analytically unsound and morally objectionable. Critics of overpopulation down through the ages have had a nasty habit of treating people less as individuals with value and agency than as sentient locusts.
Gender, rather than race or age or immigration status, has become the country’s sharpest social fault line.
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On the days she’s feeling most generous toward men—say, when she sees a handsome man on the street—Helena Lee can sometimes put her distaste aside and appreciate them as “eye candy.” That’s as far as she goes: “I do not want to know what is inside of his brain.” Most of the time, she wants nothing at all to do with men.
“I try to have faith in guys and not to be like, ‘Kill all men,’” she says. “But I’m sorry, I am a little bit on that side—that is, on the extreme side.”
Her father, she says, was abusive and moved out when she was 6, and she has lived with her mother and grandmother ever since, a mini-matriarchy that suits her fine. She wears her hair in a bob, and on the day we met, she had on a black-denim button-down and a beige trench coat. In college, male classmates told her she’d be cuter if she “fixed her gay style.” The worst part, she said, was that they were surprised when she was offended—they thought they’d paid her a compliment. She is 24, studying for civil-servant exams, and likes reading Andrea Dworkin, Carl Sagan, and the occasional romance novel, which she considers pure fantasy.
Millennials popularized bulky, super-cushioned shoes. Then Millennials got old.
My mom has been warning me that I’m going to ruin my feet for almost as long as I’ve been able to walk. She has her reasons: I spent much of my childhood refusing to wear shoes more substantial than soccer slides. In high school, she wouldn’t buy me high heels, so I got an after-school job and bought them myself. During college, I added slipperlike ballet flats and Ugg boots to my repertoire. When I was 25, a physical therapist who was treating my ankle, destroyed years prior during rec-league soccer, told me that he’d never before had a client with a leg injury show up in flip-flops.
Now I am 37, and if you already have been 37, you probably know where this is going. I’ve cleaned up my worst shoe habits, but a moderate concession to podiatric health wasn’t enough to save me. Recently, I developed plantar fasciitis, a common, nagging injury to a band of connective tissue in the foot that most acutely afflicts people who spend a lot of time on their feet—nurses, bartenders, distance runners, seemingly everyone in the NBA. It is also possible to acquire plantar fasciitis by being a dumbass who loves traipsing around in terrible shoes, which was my method.
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.
What many conservative critics of wokeness actually oppose is the pursuit of equality.
The conservative writer Bethany Mandel, a co-author of a new book attacking “wokeness” as “a new version of leftism that is aimed at your child,” recently froze up on a cable news program when asked by an interviewer how she defines woke,the term her book is about.
On the one hand, any of us with a public-facing job could have a similar moment of disassociation on live television. On the other hand, the moment and the debate it sparked revealed something important. Much of the utility of woke as a political epithet is tied to its ambiguity; it often allows its users to condemn something without making the grounds of their objection uncomfortably explicit.
A few years ago, I wrote, “Woke is a nebulous term stolen from Black American English, repurposed by conservatives as an epithet to express opposition to forms of egalitarianism they find ridiculous or distasteful.” This is what people mean when they refer to “woke banks” or “woke capital,” when they complain that the new Lord of the Rings series or the new Little Mermaid is “woke” because it includes Black actors, or when they argue for a “great unwokening” that would roll back civil-rights laws. Part of the utility of the term is that it can displace the criticism onto white liberals who are insincere about their egalitarianism, rather than appearing to be an attack on egalitarianism itself. In fact, woke has become so popular as a political epithet that providing an exhaustive list of definitions would be difficult. It is a slippery enough term that you can use it to sound like you are criticizing behavior most people think is silly, even if you are really referring to things most people think of as good or necessary.
In an interview, the Ukrainian president makes a pragmatic case for continued American support.
Imagine that someone—perhaps a man from Florida, or maybe even a governor of Florida—criticized American support for Ukraine. Imagine that this person dismissed the war between Russia and Ukraine as a purely local matter, of no broader significance. Imagine that this person even told a far-right television personality that “while the U.S. has many vital national interests ... becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.” How would a Ukrainian respond? More to the point, how would the leader of Ukraine respond?
As it happens, an opportunity to ask that hypothetical question recently availed itself. The chair of the board of directors of The Atlantic, Laurene Powell Jobs; The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg; and I interviewed President Volodymyr Zelensky several days ago in the presidential palace in Kyiv. In the course of an hour-long conversation, Goldberg asked Zelensky what he would say to someone, perhaps a governor of Florida, who wonders why Americans should help Ukraine.