The White House confirms that Trump reassigned a senior National Security Council adviser after he disagreed with the president’s Latin American policy, and South Sudan becomes the first country in six years to announce a famine.
Trump Picks Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser
President Donald Trump named Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday. McMaster is a well-respected Army officer who is also known for his scholarly work. His 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty, examined former-President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Joint Chief of Staff’s missteps and indecisiveness during the Vietnam War. He was also a critic of the Iraq War, in which he served. He led the 2005 counterinsurgency in the north of Iraq to secure Tal Afar, and was instrumental to the strategy used by General David Patraeus and that was credited with turning around the war. Foreign Policy magazine called McMaster “the brain behind Patraeus.”
Last week, Trump’s first pick for the job, Michael Flynn, stepped down from the position after reports showed he had misled the vice president about the nature of a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador. Trump then offered the position to retired retired Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who turned the position down, reportedly because of the chaos inside the White House. McMaster is widely respected with the military. Some of his work may serve him particularly well; he recently led a high-level panel on how the Army should respond to Russia’s new posture, Politico reports. And in Derelection of Duty, he criticized Johnson for being “profoundly insecure and distrustful of anyone but his closest civilian advisers,” a description critics have applied to the current president, as well.
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, died in New York City on Monday a day before his 65th birthday. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador told the Associated Press that Churkin was ill and taken to the hospital, although the cause of the illness is not known at this time. Churkin has been envoy to the UN for more than a decade. He has been a fierce defender of Russia’s foreign policies, including the intensive bombing Syrian rebels in Aleppo last year.
Trump Dismisses a Senior NSC Advisor for Criticising Administration Policy
The White House confirmed on Monday that President Donald Trump reassigned a senior National Security Council (NSC) adviser after he criticized the administration’s Latin American policy. The advisor, Craig Deare, was removed and sent back to his former role, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Monday. Deare had been assigned to the NSC by the administration, and while at a private meeting hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, he harshly criticized the president and top aides like Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and complained of the dysfunction in the White House, POLITICOreported. Deare also allegedly recounted an embarrassing call Trump had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Deare was appointed to the NSC by the Trump administration, and his release is just the latest example of the chaos being reported within the Trump White House. Last week, Trump dismissed his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, after it was revealed he misled the vice president about the nature of his conversation with the Russian ambassador.
South Sudan Becomes the First Country in Six Years to Declare Famine
More than 100,000 people in South Sudan face starvation, and on Monday it became the first country in six years to declare a famine. An ethnic conflict, which started three years ago, has driven people from their homes in some northern parts of the country, and combined with a failing economy, and drought, it has led to severe food instability. The famine so far has been contained to the northern areas of the country, but it’s expected to grow much worse this summer, and could possibly impact 5.5 million people, or about half the country’s population. A famine is only declared when a certain criteria is met. It requires at least 20 percent of homes facing extreme food shortages, and malnutrition rates of more than 30 percent. There is no binding obligation from UN member countries, but declaring famine often rallies relief groups to help deliver aid and brings international attention. South Sudan is one of Africa’s most unstable countries. It broke off from Sudan in 2011, and after a couple years of peace, the country has erupted in violence, with thousands of rebel factions fighting one another, often putting civilians in the middle.
A disparate group of thinkers says we should welcome our demise.
“Man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.”
With this declaration in The Order of Things(1966), the French philosopher Michel Foucault heralded a new way of thinking that would transform the humanities and social sciences. Foucault’s central idea was that the ways we understand ourselves as human beings aren’t timeless or natural, no matter how much we take them for granted. Rather, the modern concept of “man” was invented in the 18th century, with the emergence of new modes of thinking about biology, society, and language, and eventually it will be replaced in turn.
As Foucault writes in the book’s famous last sentence, one day “man would be erased, like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea.” The image is eerie, but he claimed to find it “a source of profound relief,” because it implies that human ideas and institutions aren’t fixed. They can be endlessly reconfigured, maybe even for the better. This was the liberating promise of postmodernism: The face in the sand is swept away, but someone will always come along to draw a new picture in a different style.
The app’s original purpose has been lost in the era of “performance” media.
Earlier this fall, while riding the subway, I overheard two friends doing some reconnaissance ahead of a party. They were young and cool—intimidatingly so, dressed in the requisite New York all black, with a dash of Y2K revival—and trying to figure out how to find a mutual acquaintance online.
“Does she have Instagram?” one asked, before adding with a laugh: “Does anybody?”
“I don’t even have it on my phone anymore,” the other confessed.
Even just a couple of years ago, it would have been unheard-of for these 20-something New Yorkers to shrug off Instagram—a sanctimonious lifestyle choice people would have regretted starting a conversation about at that party they were headed to. But now it’s not so surprising at all. To scroll through Instagram today is to parse a series of sponsored posts from brands, recommended Reels from people you don’t follow, and the occasional picture from a friend that’s finally surfaced after being posted several days ago. It’s not what it used to be.
“When in doubt, throw it out” doesn’t cut it anymore.
For refrigerators across America, the passing of Thanksgiving promises a major purge. The good stuff is the first to go: the mashed potatoes, the buttery remains of stuffing, breakfast-worthy cold pie. But what’s that in the distance, huddled gloomily behind the leftovers? There lie the marginalized relics of pre-Thanksgiving grocery runs. Heavy cream, a few days past its sell-by date. A desolate bag of spinach whose label says it went bad on Sunday. Bread so hard you wonder if it’s from last Thanksgiving.
The alimentarily unthinking, myself included, tend to move right past expiration dates. Last week, I considered the contents of a petite container in the bowels of my fridge that had transcended its best-by date by six weeks. Did I dare eat a peach yogurt? I sure did, and it was great. In most households, old items don’t stand a chance. It makes sense for people to be wary of expired food, which can occasionally be vile and incite a frenzied dash to the toilet, but food scientists have been telling us for years—if not decades—that expiration dates are mostly useless when it comes to food safety. Indeed, an enormous portion of what we deem trash is perfectly fine to eat: The food-waste nonprofit ReFED estimated that 305 million pounds of food would be needlessly discarded this Thanksgiving.
On his debut solo album, Indigo, the South Korean rapper finds meaning within the noise of global stardom.
One year ago today, the leader of the world’s biggest pop group stood beneath bright lights and told more than 50,000 fans about his fears. Kim Namjoon, better known by his stage name RM, had guided his fellow BTS members through the vagaries of early-pandemic life—a canceled world tour, delayed music releases and life plans, illness. In an emotional speech during a Los Angeles concert last December, the then-27-year-old South Korean rapper confessed that he’d spent that time worrying about the future. What if their fans abandoned them? What if he lost his abilities as a performer? But, RM said, those concerns had melted away. “I promise that … I’ll be even better when I’m 30, 35, or 40,” he declared, to an eruption of cheers.
When The Office originally aired, its resident fool made for easy comedy. Fifteen years later, it’s hard to watch Dwight without seeing tragedy.
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These are boom times for the lolsob. Watching the news, I sometimes find myself staring at the screen, eyes wide, brain broken, not sure whether to laugh or cry. The farce and tragedy tangle so tightly that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. How do you make sense, for example, of a leader who, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, muses about the curative powers of bleach? How do you process a president’s attempt to edit a hurricane with a Sharpie? The words, after a while, stop working. The categories collapse. Many true things have been written about what living under this regime feels like; one of the truest I’ve encountered is a 2017 prediction from the writer Hayes Brown: “This is going to be the dumbest dystopia.”
In the Netflix film The Wonder, a “fasting girl” becomes a holy spectacle of self-annihilation.
In a 2004 essay, the late writer Hilary Mantel considered the story of Gemma Galgani, a 19th-century Italian mystic who refused food, bore wounds on her hands and feet that she claimed were stigmata—a doctor declared them to be self-inflicted with a sewing needle—and believed that enduring periods of intense physical suffering could expiate all the sins ever committed by priests. There is something unnervingly timeless, Mantel writes, about young women who “starve and purge themselves, and … pierce and slash their flesh,” even if we no longer endorse such behavior as spiritual devotion. Galgani was canonized as a saint in 1940. While venerating her, few people noticed that she was terrified of doctors, hated being examined, and wrote once of a servant who “used to take me into a closed room and undress me.” It’s easier, maybe, to believe in miracles than to reckon with the pain of a girl whom someone is quite conventionally hurting.
People who haven’t met him think he’s a hot commodity. People who have met him aren’t so sure.
Governor Ron DeSantis has a growing store of admirers. This includes many who have watched the cantankerous Floridian only from afar. They have heard glowing things. He was the biggest winner of an otherwise dark election cycle for Republicans. He has impeccable bona fides as a Donald Trump disciple—without being Trump himself, whom many see as the biggest loser of said dark election cycle.
This has made DeSantis the GOP’s hottest molecule. He is full MAGA without the high drama. He is terrorizing all the right targetswhile Trump keeps blowing himself up in new and creative ways. “He is Trump with a brain,” goes the whispered refrain among DeSantis aides (this clearly drives Trump nuts—always a noble goal).
Should you even try to buy a house right now? Asking real-estate agents, economists, and potential homebuyers that question is likely to elicit something between a whimper and a scream these days. “It never feels like a great time to buy a house,” Danielle Hale, the chief economist at Realtor.com, told me. “You’re committing yourself to paying this enormous mortgage over a really long period of time.” But, she said, something that is always “a little bit scary” is “particularly scary” right now. Many Americans seem to share that sentiment: Half as many home sales occurred this past July as in the same month two years ago.
A confluence of factors, some structural and some cyclical, have aligned to make the current housing market among the most challenging, expensive, and stressful ones in recent years. A few lucky Americans are poised to pick up some deals, while many other families are negotiating the process by lowering their expectations or increasing their budget. “There are always people out there for whom now is the best time,” Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist at Redfin, told me. “There are people who are trying to move across the country for a new job opportunity. There are people who have been laid off and need to rethink their finances.”
2001: A Space Odyssey is prescient, beautiful, and entirely unsatisfactory.
As the outer-space correspondent at The Atlantic, I spend a lot of time looking beyond Earth’s atmosphere. I’ve watched footage of a helicopter flying on Mars. I’ve watched a livestream of NASA smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid on purpose. I’ve seen people blast off on rockets with my own eyes. But I have never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This is an enormous oversight, apparently. The 1968 film is considered one of the greatest in history and its director, Stanley Kubrick, a cinematic genius. And, obviously, it’s about space. Surely a space reporter should see it—and surely a reporter should take notes.
What follows is my real-time reaction to watching 2001 on a recent evening, edited for length and clarity. Even though the movie has been out for 54 years, I feel a duty to warn you that there are major spoilers ahead. (If you’re suddenly compelled to watch 2001 first, you can rent it for $3.99 on YouTube.)
“You Make Loving Fun” showed that the late Fleetwood Mac member was a titan in her own right.
The popular image of Fleetwood Mac is of the band as an unstable molecule, its parts best understood by their place in an ever-changing swirl of connections. The group’s long saga includes marriages and divorces and affairs, departures and firings and returns. Bustling with rumbling blues, painterly folk, and hippie pop, its songs are pleasant blurs from afar, and cathedral-ceiling complex up close.
To most people, the singer and keyboardist Christine McVie, who died yesterday at age 79, was the member most recognizable for her role in the whole. She was first a fan (back when she performed under her birth name, Christine Perfect, at the same gigs as Mick Fleetwood’s blues group), and then a pillar (described in multiple obituaries as something like the “eye of the storm” in Fleetwood Mac). She could be thought of as both the band’s first woman (joining in 1970 shortly after marrying its bassist John McVie) and the band’s second woman (having willingly ceded the spotlight to Stevie Nicks, who joined in 1975 and quickly became a superstar). She was a glory-agnostic musician’s musician, content to entertain the public from behind the buffer of an electric piano.