In a speech packed with policy proposals, a dark view of the past, and hope for the future, President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening. As my colleague Clare Foran notes, the speech was “perhaps more notable for its tone than its substance.” She writes:
It marked a striking change of tone from his campaign and his early days in office, from a president who has frequently feuded with critics, including members of his own party. The optimistic tone was equally a departure from Trump’s inaugural address, in which he painted a picture of a country in decline and memorably promised to end “American carnage.” On Tuesday, he acknowledged that “the challenges we face as a nation are great,” but he added “our people are even greater.”
For a full breakdown of the moments of the speech and what the president proposed, check out our full coverage here.
Malaysian authorities charged two women in the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The women, Siti Aishah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, face the death penalty if convicted. Kim was killed on February 13 at the Kuala Lumpur airport when the women allegedly rubbed a VX nerve agent on his face. Lawyers for the women have said they thought they were playing a prank on a gameshow. Kim died within 20 minutes of the attack. The North Korean government is suspected in orchestrating the attack. Leaders in Pyongyang have denied those accusations. Authorities in Malaysia are seeking to question a diplomat in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
FBI to Investigate Shooting of 2 Indian Men in Kansas as a Hate Crime
Authorities will investigate the shooting at a Kansas bar that resulted in the death of an Indian man as a hate crime, the FBI announced Tuesday. The decision comes nearly one week after 51-year-old Adam Purinton allegedly yelled at Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, both 32-year-old Indian men, to “get out of my country” before opening fire, killing Kuchibhotla and wounding Madasani. Ian Grillot, another bar patron who tried to intervene in the shooting, was also injured. Purinton, who was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, reportedly believed Kuchibhotla and Madasani to be of Middle Eastern descent. The incident has since prompted fears within the Indian community of future racially-motivated attacks, and Madasani’s father, Jaganmohan Reddy, cautioned Indian parents against sending their children to the U.S., adding: “The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. president.” In a press briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called suggestions of a correlation between the shooting and President Trump’s immigration policies “absurd.”
2 Police Officers Shot in Houston; Suspect at Large
Updated at 3:42 p.m.
Two Houston police officers responding to a burglary were shot Tuesday in the southwest portion of the city, prompting a shelter-in-place for residents of the area. Both officers were shot multiple times and are being treated at local hospitals. One, identified as Officer Jose Munoz, a 10-year veteran, received non-life-threatening injuries; the other, Officer Ronnie Cortez, a 24-year veteran of the force, was critically injured, Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference. Acevedo said there were two suspects, one of whom was killed at the scene, and the other who is at large.
Update: two officers shot during incident at 8714 Sterlingame; both being treated at hospitals; conditions not being released at this time
Female and Child Migrants Face Rampant Abuse in Libya, UNICEF Says
Female and child migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe face sexual abuse, violence, and exploitation at the hands of smugglers and traffickers, a report published Tuesday by UNICEF finds. According to the UN agency, there are more than 250,000 migrants in Libya; women make up 11 percent and children 9 percent. These migrants are often held within any one of the 34 government-run detention centers identified throughout the country, though UNICEF said many of them are also held in unofficial detention centers run by armed groups. Of the 122 women and children interviewed by UNICEF, three-quarters “said they experienced violence, harassment, or aggression at the hands of adults” while in detention, and nearly half of them reported sexual abuse. Those interviewed also reported a lack of access to proper nutrition, sanitation, health care, and legal access—conditions UNICEF described as “living hellholes.” Afshan Khan, the UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said in a statement that migration routes from Libya to Europe are “controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” adding: “We need safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children that keep them safe and keep predators at bay.” Indeed, there are few safeguards for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Of the more than 180,000 who attempted the journey from Libya to Italy last year, more than 4,500 drowned—a figure which made 2016 the deadliest year for migrants on record.
UPDATE: Samsung's Chief, 4 Executives Charged in Corruption Scandal
Updated at 9:19 a.m. ET
South Korean prosecutors say they charged Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung heir, and four other company executives with corruption and embezzlement in a scandal that has already resulted in the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Three of the four executives, who were named in Tuesday’s announcement, resigned from the company. Lee was arrested earlier this month. My colleague Yasmeen Serhan previously reported: “The arrest concerns multimillion-dollar donations the Samsung executive made to companies associated with Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park whose Rasputin-like relationship with the president prompted allegations of undue influence and ultimately led to Park’s impeachment. Prosecutors allege Lee made the donations in exchange for political support for a 2015 merger between Samsung and Cheil Industries, an affiliated firm. Though Lee confirmed he made the donations, he denied that they were bribes.” The charges could have major implications for Samsung; Lee has run the conglomerate since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014.
UPDATE: 'I Don’t Think We’ve Explained it Well Enough to the American Public,' Trump Says
Updated at 9:01 a.m. ET
President Trump toldFox & Friends he’d give himself an “A” on his achievements so far, but would give himself a “C or C-plus” for messaging. “I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have—I and my people—I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public,” he said. The remarks came hours before his scheduled remarks to a joint session of Congress. Trump said he’d use the address to elaborate on his plans for the military, border security, the economy, and health care. The speech isn’t technically a State of the Union address, which is given a year after a president has been in office. The address, which begins at 9 p.m., comes a little more than a month after Trump’s inauguration as president. My colleague Molly Ball assessed his time in office so far.
The generation that grew up with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” isn’t just nostalgic for that novelty tune—it’s making music inspired by it.
Ten years ago, the most Googled name in the world belonged to a wide-smiling 13-year-old girl everyone seemed to be laughing at. She was Rebecca Black of “Friday,” the calendar-themed sing-along that reached megafame by being, in many people’s judgment, the worst song ever. Amid cheesy production by the ARK Music Factory—a now-defunct Southern California firm that Black’s mom had paid $4,000 to make the song—Black’s auto-tuned voice bleated about cereal, front seats, back seats, and “fun, fun, fun.” In the music video, which featured tweens riding around in a convertible, and on talk shows where hosts quizzed Black about why her song was so hated, she never seemed to drop her grin.
The Apple+ series Physical is a reminder that making people hate their body is a thriving pillar of American commerce.
This is supposed to be the season of unleashed, exuberant exhibitionism. Many of us have swaddled our pale bodies in Lycra and terry cloth for more than a year; the theory of Hot Vax Summer is that we’re long overdue to expose them to the cruel light of other people’s eyes. In the music video for “Solar Power,” Lorde basks on the beach in a lemon-yellow crop top, the symmetry of her rib cage its own work of art. “Forget all of the tears that you’ve cried; it’s over,” she sings, shooing away our literal and metaphorical winter of COVID-19. (Predictably, the outfit she wears—$615 plus tax!—sold out immediately.) I watched most of Physical—Apple TV+’s new series about a 1980s aerobics queen-in-waiting—with this in mind, idly running my hand over and over my unsculpted midriff, fighting the impulse to throw on a leotard and sweat joyfully along to “Space Age Love Song.” This is the conflict at the center of American consumerist fitness spectacle: Even when it’s at its most transparently questionable, the promise is almost impossible to resist.
Leagues are seeing the downside of treating vaccines as simply a matter of personal choice.
When the NBA announced Wednesday that Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul was being sidelined indefinitely under the league’s coronavirus-safety protocols, the next question was obvious: Had Paul been vaccinated?
For COVID-19 concerns to interrupt Paul’s brilliant playoff run seemed particularly cruel—not only because the widespread availability of vaccines has made transmission of the virus largely preventable, but also because the Suns had just secured a spot in the Western Conference finals. Even though Paul is one of the best NBA point guards ever, this week’s development was another unfortunate entry in his long history of medical problems during the playoffs.
The television analysts Matt Barnes and Jalen Rose, both of whom are former NBA players, soon reported that Paul had indeed been vaccinated. But all the discussion of his status raised another important question: Do fans even have the right to know, and do journalists have the right to ask, if a player has been vaccinated against COVID-19?
A common ideology underlies the practices of many ultra-wealthy people: The government can’t be trusted with money.
When ProPublica published its report last week on the tax profiles of 25 of the richest Americans, jaws dropped across the United States. How was it possible that plutocrats such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett could pay nothing in income taxes to the federal government? What sneaky sleights of pen, what subterfuge, what acts of turpitude could have led to this result?
The shock stems, in part, from a disturbing reality: Nowhere does ProPublica assert that these men cheated, lied, or did anything felonious to lower their tax burdens. The naked fact of the matter is that not a single one of the documented methods and practices that allowed these billionaires to so radically minimize their tax obligations was illegal.
There’s no way of knowing how bad things will get in the U.S. In a way, that’s a luxury.
This much is clear: The coronavirus is becoming more transmissible. Ever since the virus emerged in China, it has been gaining mutations that help it spread more easily among humans. The Alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom last year, is 50 percent more transmissible than the original version, and now the Delta variant, first detected in India, is at least 40 percent more transmissible than Alpha.
What’s less certain, however, is how the virus’s increased transmissibility will affect the pandemic in the United States. Alpha’s arrival prompted worries about a new surge in the spring, but one never came. The proportion of Alpha cases kept going up, but the total number of cases kept going down. People got vaccinated. Alpha became dominant in the U.S. Cases fell even further. The virus had become more biologically transmissible, but it wasn’t being transmitted to more people.
Of all the injuries we suffered, mine is the worst. My brain injury has shaken my confidence in my own personality, my own existence.
The worst things can happen on the most beautiful days. My family’s worst day was a perfect one in the summer of 2019. We picked my daughter up from camp and talked about where to go for lunch: the diner or the burger place. I don’t remember which we chose. What I do remember: being woken up, again and again, by doctors who insist on asking me the same questions—my name, where I am, what month it is—and telling me the same story, a story that I am sure is wrong.
“You were in a car accident,” they say. But this cannot be. We’re having lunch and then going on a hike. I had promised the think tank where I work that I’d call in to a 4 p.m. meeting.
“You are in Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire.” Another ludicrous statement. I started the day in Vermont. Surely if I had crossed the river to New Hampshire I would know it.
The real villain isn’t a faceless Wall Street Goliath; it’s your neighbors and local governments stopping the construction of new units.
The BlackRock saga sounds grotesque. At a time of maximal desperation in the U.S. housing market, giant investment banks, such as BlackRock, are buying up some of the few houses left on the market, boxing families out of the American dream. They’re turning these homes into rental units that they will, in some cases, leave to decay. Such faceless institutional investors are reportedly more likely than ordinary “mom and pop” landlords to aggressively raise rent—and evict people who can’t afford it.
Americans don’t agree about much, but they seem united in believing that this is a despicable state of affairs. In the past few days, institutional housing investors have drawn criticism from Fox News and Republican politicos as well as left-wing commentators.
Voter-ID laws are noxious. But they don’t suppress turnout that much.
In order to secure his vote on the most significant voting-rights legislation in more than half a century, Senator Joe Manchin is demanding that every American be required to show identification in order to vote. Democrats shouldn’t hold their nose and take that deal.
They should embrace it with open arms.
Manchin has been frequently and fairly criticized for incoherence on democracy issues. His recent op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which argued that partisan voting restrictions should be undone only with bipartisan support, was illogical. But now the staunch advocates, rather than the reluctant moderates, are facing a crucial test—and to pass that test, it’s time for Democrats to have a full, honest conversation about requiring voter ID.
The extent of the former president’s corruption may be too great for Americans to fathom.
A torrent of newrevelations is filling in the picture of how Donald Trump used, and abused, his authority as president. But the disclosures may serve only to underscore how little remains known about all the ways in which Trump barreled through traditional limits on the exercise of presidential power—and highlight the urgency of developing a more comprehensive accounting before the 2024 election, when he may seek to regain those powers.
Reducing hours without reducing pay would reignite an essential but long-forgotten moral project: making American life less about work.
The 89 people who work at Buffer, a company that makes social-media management tools, are used to having an unconventional employer. Everyone’s salary, including the CEO’s, is public. All employees work remotely; their only office closed down six years ago. And as a perk, Buffer pays for any books employees want to buy for themselves.
So perhaps it is unsurprising that last year, when the pandemic obliterated countless workers’ work-life balance and mental health, Buffer responded in a way that few other companies did: It gave employees an extra day off each week, without reducing pay—an experiment that’s still running a year later. “It has been such a godsend,” Essence Muhammad, a customer-support agent at Buffer, told me.