President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a joint news conference on Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago, responding to North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile.
“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” Abe said, speaking through an interpreter. “North Korea must fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” He pointed to Trump’s presence at the impromptu news conference as evidence of the new president’s commitment to the strength of the alliance.
Then Trump stepped forward to speak. “I just want everyone to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent,” he said. “Thank you.”
The statements were somewhat more measured than the words of South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-Ahn. “Our government, in tandem with the international community, is doing its best to ensure a corresponding response to punish the North,” he said earlier.
The missile was launched hours earlier over the Korean peninsula, flying some 300 miles into the Sea of Japan. It was unclear whether this was a test of a shorter-range missile, a successful flight of the mid-range Musadan missile, or a test of one or more stages of the intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea is attempting to develop.
North Korean weapons development programs, including its nuclear arsenal, have challenged successive American administrations, and now present an early test to the Trump administration.
Yale Changes the Name of Calhoun College Over Ties to Racism
Yale University announced Saturday that it would rename its residential college that bore the name of John C. Calhoun, a Yale graduate, U.S. vice president, white supremacist and advocate of slavery. The college will now be named after Grace Murray Hopper, a mathematician who graduated from the university in 1934 and left a teaching role to enlist in the Navy during World War II. The name change is a reversal of a decision made last spring, when Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, said he would not remove Calhoun’s name, because he thought it better to confront history, not to erase it. In that same spirit, Calhoun’s name will not be removed from the college, but will appear alongside Hopper’s, although the college will only be referred to by the latter. Hopper left her teaching job at Vassar and joined the Navy to help defeat Fascism, and she remained in service most of her life. But she is much better known for her work on early computers, developing code and language that allowed non-specialists to use them. The protest and petition over the college’s namesake began not long after a white supremacist in South Carolina shot and killed nine black worshipper at a church. The backlash led South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flew above the state capitol, as well as petitions for other colleges to remove names or images of historical figures who were pro-slavery or white supremacists.
A 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the the Philippines late Friday, killing at least six people and injuring more than 100. The city of Surigao, in the country’s southern Mindanao region, was worst hit and the quake shut off power, destroyed homes, and took down a bridge. Since the initial quake, more than 100 aftershocks have been felt. The government set up evacuation centers, but they have struggled to accommodate everyone. More than a thousand people spent the night outside the provincial capitol building, and by morning emergency crews were passing out food and other supplies. Rescue workers are now going through the rubble of toppled buildings, pulling out some trapped survivors. Seismologists say the epicenter struck along the Philippine fault zone, which last moved in 1879.
Hundreds of Whales Die in New Zealand After They Beached Themselves
More than 650 pilot whales have beached themselves in the past two days along a stretch of New Zealand coastline called Farewell Spit, and about 330 have died so far. Dozens of volunteers from around the country worked to keep the whales cool, bucketing water on their bodies, and they managed to push about 100 back to the ocean. But early Saturday morning another pod of 240 swam onto the beach. The rescuers are waiting until the next high tide, which comes Sunday morning, until they can save this new pod. It’s not clear why whales beach themselves. Bite marks from a shark were found on at least one of the whales, so they may have driven themselves onto land looking for safety. Another possibility is that when one whale swims too far onto the coast it becomes confused and sends out a distress call. When other whales come to save it they also become beached. This area in New Zealand, on the South Island, has seen large pods of whales beach themselves before, but never this bad.
Changing voters’ minds is famously difficult, but a recent progressive effort found real success.
No state has haunted the Democratic Party’s imagination for the past four years like Wisconsin. While it was not the only state that killed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes in 2016, it was the one where the knife plunged deepest. Clinton was so confident about Wisconsin that she never even campaigned there. This year, it is one of the most fiercely contested states. The Democrats planned to hold their convention in Milwaukee, before the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Donald Trump is also making a strong play for Wisconsin.
Trump’s weaknesses with the electorate are familiar: Voters find him coarse, and they deplore his handling of race, the coronavirus, and protests. One recent YouGov poll found that just 42 percent of Americans approved of his performance as president, while 54 percent disapproved. But when the pollsters asked about Trump’s handling of the economy, those attitudes reversed: 48 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved, despite the havoc wreaked by the pandemic.
The Supreme Court vacancy will surely inflame an already-angry nation.
A furious battle over a Supreme Court vacancy is arguably the last thing the United States needed right now.
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg today represents a devastating loss for feminists who held up the 87-year-old as an icon of women’s rights, and as a bulwark protecting abortion rights and a wide range of other progressive ideals on a conservative Supreme Court. The Brooklyn-born jurist became one of the nation’s foremost advocates against gender discrimination as a lawyer for the ACLU, decades before President Bill Clinton appointed her to be the second woman to sit on the high court.
But her passing less than two months before the presidential election also tosses one more lit match into the tinderbox of national politics in 2020: It will surely inflame a deeply polarized country already riven by a deadly pandemic, a steep economic downturn, and civil unrest in its major cities.
The coming months of the pandemic could be catastrophic. The U.S. still has ways to prepare.
On April 13, Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared on the Today show and assured viewers that the worst was nearly behind us. It had been a month since the last gathering of fans in an NBA arena; a month since the fateful week when Americans began panic-buying bottled water and canned beans. The segment’s host, Savannah Guthrie, was broadcasting from home in upstate New York. With the light of a makeshift camera reflecting in her glasses, she asked Redfield to address reports that we could be facing another three weeks of social distancing. “We are nearing the peak right now,” Redfield told her. “Clearly we are stabilizing in terms of the state of this outbreak.”
Climate change is killing Americans and destroying the country’s physical infrastructure.
The federal government spends roughly $700 billion a year on the military. It spends perhaps $15 billion a year trying to understand and stop climate change.
I thought about those numbers a lot last week, as I tried to stop my toddler from playing in ash, tried to calm down my dogs as they paced and panted in mid-morning dusk light, tried to figure out whether my air purifier was actually protecting my lungs, tried to understand why the sky was pumpkin-colored, and tried not to think about the carcinogen risk of breathing in wildfire smoke, week after week.
The government has committed to defending us and our allies against foreign enemies. Yet when it comes to the single biggest existential threat we collectively face—the one that threatens to make much of the planet uninhabitable, starve millions, and incite violent conflicts around the world—it has chosen to do near-nothing. Worse than that, the federal government continues to subsidize and promote fossil fuels, and with them the destruction of our planetary home. Climate hell is here. We cannot stand it. And we cannot afford it either.
The Senate majority leader’s assertion that his election-year blockade of Merrick Garland doesn’t apply to 2020 shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Anyone who thought Mitch McConnell was going to give up a prized Supreme Court seat purely for the sake of appearances hasn’t been paying attention.
With four words and a proud smile, the Senate majority leader this week confirmed what those who have watched him closely have long understood to be true: If a vacancy on the high court occurs in the election year of 2020, the Republican majority that McConnell leads would vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee. “Oh, we’d fill it,” McConnell said in response to a what-if question about the Supreme Court during an appearance in his home state of Kentucky.
McConnell’s assertion is likely to come as worrisome, if unsurprising, news to liberals who fear for the health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 86-year-old justice who has no plans to retire but who has endured multiple falls and cancer scares in the past decade. It also serves as a reminder to Democrats musing about eliminating the legislative filibuster that the same option could be open to Republicans, and the Senate leader they’re hoping to topple is never shy about making full use of the powers of his position—even those he has previously dismissed.
A new biography squares the decorous legal figure with the feminist gladiator.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not just having a “moment” in American feminist culture. She has rapidly become—in a time that craves heroines—the American ideal of power and authority for millions of women and girls. Beyond the movies (RBG, released in May, and On the Basis of Sex, out in December) and the biographies, not to mention the memes and T-shirts and mugs that proliferate like lace-collared mushrooms, Ginsburg at 85 is also the closest thing America has to the consummate anti–Donald Trump. Today, more than ever, women starved for models of female influence, authenticity, dignity, and voice hold up an octogenarian justice as the embodiment of hope for an empowered future.
Some of the year’s best new movies are about American soul-searching.
David Byrne has long been a master of perfectly designed worlds. The 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, with his band Talking Heads, captured how carefully he stages his shows, bringing in band members one by one to emphasize how each contributes to the harmonies of a song. Byrne’s latest tour, “American Utopia,” was documented by Spike Lee in a film of the same name, due out October 17 on HBO. In it, Byrne again tries to construct a new musical universe, making jolly music and dancing in lockstep with shoeless artists in natty gray suits. But as the film’s title suggests, he wants to create a better world beyond the concert venue too.
American Utopia was the opening-night feature at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season every year with big premieres and awards-friendly projects. Thanks to the coronavirus and the general hibernation of the industry, TIFF screened just 50 new films this year (compared with more than 300 in 2019). But even in its compact form, the festival offered a preview of what moviegoers can expect in the next few months as Hollywood navigates the pandemic. Given that the United States is in the midst of a fraught election season, it’s unsurprising that some of the most compelling new films confront the idealistic notion of America—and how promises of progress and justice are so often blunted by the grim realities of racism, poverty, and polarization.
Millions of coronavirus tests may be happening without their results being made public.
President Donald Trump has never hidden his ambivalence about testing for the coronavirus. In June, when he told an arena of supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he had instructed “his people” to “‘slow the testing down, please,’” the disclosure prompted one of the more dire news cycles of the pandemic. The president said repeatedly that he wanted the United States to reduce its testing. But in the weeks that followed, testing increased.
Not so now. In the past month, the number of tests conducted in the United States has actually drifted down—and that may be partly because of Trump-administration policy.
The United States now reports about 100,000 fewer daily tests than it did in late July, according to the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. Some of this decline is due to reduced demand: The surge of infections across the South and West has subsided, and when fewer people are sick, fewer people seek out tests. Yet this cannot explain all of it. In the Midwest, the number of confirmed cases is growing faster than the number of tests, which has been a sign of a growing outbreak throughout the pandemic.
The press hasn’t broken its most destructive habits when it comes to covering Donald Trump.
We’re seeing a huge error, and a potential tragedy, unfold in real time.
That’s a sentence that could apply to countless aspects of economic, medical, governmental, and environmental life at the moment. What I have in mind, though, is the almost unbelievable failure of much of the press to respond to the realities of the Trump age.
Many of our most influential editors and reporters are acting as if the rules that prevailed under previous American presidents are still in effect. But this president is different; the rules are different; and if it doesn’t adapt, fast, the press will stand as yet another institution that failed in a moment of crucial pressure.
In some important ways, media outlets are repeating the mistake made by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his book about the Mueller investigation, True Crimes and Misdemeanors (and in a New Yorker article), Jeffrey Toobin argues that Mueller’s tragic flaw was a kind of anachronistic idealism—which had the same effect as naivete. Mueller knew the ethical standards he would maintain for himself and insist on from his team. He didn’t understand that the people he was dealing with thought standards were for chumps. Mueller didn’t imagine that a sitting attorney general would intentionally misrepresent his report, which is of course what Bill Barr did. Mueller wanted to avoid an unseemly showdown, or the appearance of a “fishing expedition” inquiry, that would come from seeking a grand-jury subpoena for Donald Trump’s testimony, so he never spoke with Trump under oath, or at all. Trump, Barr, and their team viewed this decorousness as a sign of weakness, which they could exploit.
All summer, I tried to buy things, and mostly I failed. I signed up for two separate wait lists for out-of-stock black spandex bike shorts, which I needed for the Peloton I had bought, itself back-ordered for two months. I also added my email address to a wait list for curtain rods, remembering how the shifting fall sun broils the kitchen table that’s now my office. When word from Bed Bath & Beyond came weeks later to let me know they were back on sale, I was too slow on the draw—they sold out about as swiftly as hand sanitizer did in March. Over the weekend, I believed I had acquired replacements for my worn-out bed linens, but my email receipt contained a confession: The sheets would arrive, at best, around Halloween.