—House Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, hoping to dismantle a signature law of President Obama’s tenure. More here
—The White House unveiled its revised executive order on immigration, nearly a month after a federal appeals court declined to reinstate the ban on travelers from seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House Republicans Introduce Their Obamacare Repeal-and-Replace Legislation
House Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Monday night, hoping to dismantle a signature law of President Obama’s tenure. The House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees released two components of the so-called American Health Care Act, which both keeps some provisions of Obamacare and reshapes health policy in the U.S. My colleague Vann R. Newkirk II breaks down the different aspects of the proposed legislation, including how it reshapes Medicaid, uses tax credits, repeals taxes, and changes federal funding. In part, he writes:
At first glance, it appears that the most likely result nationally would be a net loss of coverage and a decrease in insurance affordability for many people who are the most vulnerable, but at least some of that effect might be offset by some enhanced state Medicaid payment capabilities and the stability fund.
The legislation will have a tough road ahead, and not just from Democrats. As my colleague Russell Berman writes, some conservative members of Congress said it doesn’t go far enough.
A Diplomatic Tit-for-Tat Between North Korea and Malaysia
Tensions between North Korea and Malaysia escalated Monday after the North Korean government announced it was temporarily banning Malaysians from leaving the country. Officials say the move was to protect its diplomats and citizens in Malaysia in the aftermath of the assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother. Earlier on Monday, Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, was expelled from the country for making disparaging remarks against the country. Three weeks ago in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, two women, one Vietnamese and one Indonesian, rubbed a VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face. He died 20 minutes later. Pyongyang is suspected of orchestrating the February 13 assassination. The two women, who have been charged with murder, claim they thought they were playing a television game. Meanwhile, two North Koreans wanted by Malaysian police in the assassination are still hiding in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters, “How much longer do they want to hide in the embassy?” The North Korean government have denied any involvement, claiming Kim died of heart failure.
The White House unveiled its revised executive order on immigration, nearly a month after a federal appeals court declined to reinstate the ban on travelers from seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. The previous order, unveiled in late January after President Trump’s inauguration, barred travelers—including green-card holders—from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days. It also suspended the U.S. refugee intake for 120 days, and barred all Syrian refugees until further notice. The order sowed chaos at airports in the U.S. and around the world, leading to protests, as well as legal challenges that said it was discriminatory against Muslims. The new order excludes Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S. It also no longer indefinitely suspends the entry of Syrian refugees. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, told Fox News this morning that Iraq has better “screening and reporting,” thereby allowing its citizens to enter the U.S. The order goes into effect March 16. A senior official from the Department of Homeland Security said: “If you’re in the United States on the effective date of this order, which March 16, it does not apply to you. If you have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, it does not apply to you. If your visa was revoked or provisionally revoked pursuant solely to this executive order on January 27 ... you can still travel on that visa. ... If you have a current, valid, multi-entry visa ... you're not going to have any issues. You’re not covered by this executive order.”
Defense Department to Investigate Marines Who Shared Photos of Nude Female Colleagues
The U.S. Department of Defense is investigating an undisclosed number of Marines for soliciting and sharing nude photos of their female colleagues online. The allegations, which were first reported by The War Horse and the Center for Investigative Reporting, concern images that were posted on a Facebook group titled “Marines United,” a 30,000-member community of male-only active Marines and veterans. In addition to sharing photos on the private Facebook page, group members could also access more photos through a Google Drive link. These posts identified the women by their name, rank, and duty station, and often drew sexually explicit and obscene comments. The start of the photo-sharing was traced back to as early late January—less than a month after the Marines welcomed their first female members of an infantry unit. The Marine Corps condemned the behavior in a statement Sunday, which it said “destroys morale, erodes trust and degrades the individual.” A privately circulated 10-page document titled “Office of Marine Corps Communications Public Affairs Guidance,” which detailed the allegations and talking points for senior Marine Corps officials, emphasized providing support for victims and accountability. It also warned of potential responses within the Marines itself, noting: “The story will likely spark shares and discussions across social media, offering venues for Marines and former Marines who may victim blame, i.e., ‘they shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place,’ or bemoan that they believe the Corps is becoming soft or politically correct.” Thomas James Brennan, the War Horse’s founder and the author of the report, said he received threats against himself and his family since he published the story. Brennan, a Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient, told the Marine Corps Times: “As a Marine veteran, I stand by the code: honor, courage and commitment. This story was published with the intention of standing up for what is right and staying true to the leadership principle of looking out for Marines and their families.”
Japan Calls North Korea's Missile Launches a 'New Level of Threat'
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described as “a new level of threat” North Korea’s launch Monday of four ballistic missiles. Three of the missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan; one fell outside the EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles from Japan’s coastline. Abe told parliament Japan would coordinate with the U.S. and South Korea over the missile launches, which coincided with a U.S.-South Korean military exercise. Pyongyang views such exercises as a provocation. North Korea’s missile launch also comes three weeks after it fired a medium-range missile, a move that coincided with Abe’s meeting with U.S. President Trump. The latest North Korean launches could embolden Abe to press for more defense spending, an issue the Japanese leader has championed.
Trump's Tweets, Accusations, and the Revised Executive Order on Immigration
President Trump’s weekend was marked by tweets that said his predecessor, Barack Obama, had secretly wiretapped him during the presidential election. A spokesman for Obama dismissed the allegation, for which Trump offered no evidence. James Comey, the FBI director, reportedly denied Obama ordered an such wiretap, as did James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. The White House in a statement Sunday said it would offer no evidence of Trump’s claim, and said it wouldn’t comment on the controversy, either. The entire episode capped a week that should have been a triumph for Trump, but instead exhibited the chaos that has marked the six weeks since he was inaugurated president. Last Tuesday, Trump was widely praised for his address to a joint session of Congress, but a day later it emerged that Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator who now serves as his attorney general, met twice with the Russian envoy to Washington during the presidential campaign. That resulted in calls by Democrats and Republicans for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into contacts between Trump’s campaign aides and Russia. The Washington Postprovided a colorful account of the mood at the White House following the revelations:
Back at the White House on Friday morning, Trump summoned his senior aides into the Oval Office, where he simmered with rage, according to several White House officials. He upbraided them over Sessions’s decision to recuse himself, believing that Sessions had succumbed to pressure from the media and other critics instead of fighting with the full defenses of the White House.
Separately, news reports say Trump is expected to sign his revised executive order on immigration as early as today.
America’s tidal wave of Omicron infections seems to have crested, but it’s still in a bad place. Even as coronavirus cases are beginning to tick down nationwide, so many Americans have tested positive for COVID since Christmas Day that they account for a quarter of all cases recorded in the United States. Thanks to the immunity America has—through shots and prior infections—most of these people came out of it largely unscathed. And they got an immunity bump too: We’ve long known that an infection with the coronavirus spurs the body to churn out more antibodies.
While public-health officials are still urging all Americans to be cautious with so much of the virus around, guidance for people who have already recovered from COVID this winter is sorely lacking. That has left Omicron survivors to deal with a confusing question: What now? I reached out to a handful of epidemiologists, and they all agreed that getting Omicron isn’t a golden ticket to normalcy. However, the immune boost from an Omicron infection can still be paired with other precautions to safely go about many activities. Keeping a few pandemic principles in mind can help make everyday decisions a little less fraught.
Districts should rethink imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit.
In the panicked spring of 2020, as health officials scrambled to keep communities safe, they recommended various restrictions and interventions, sometimes in the absence of rigorous science supporting them. That was understandable at the time. Now, however, two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. Although no district is likely to roll back COVID policies in the middle of the Omicron surge, at the top of the list of policies we should rethink once the wave recedes is mandatory masks for kids at school.
The CDC guidance on school masking is far-reaching, recommending “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” In contrast, many countries—the U.K., Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and others—have not taken the U.S.’s approach, and instead follow World Health Organization guidelines, which recommend against masking children ages 5 and younger, because this age group is at low risk of illness, because masks are not “in the overall interest of the child,” and because many children are unable to wear masks properly. Even for children ages 6 to 11, the WHO does not routinelyrecommend masks, because of the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.” The WHO also explicitly counsels against masking children during physical activities, including running and jumping at the playground, so as not to compromise breathing.
Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking.
Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market, according to the latest numbers from MRC Data, a music-analytics firm. Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling. But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs.
The 200 most popular new tracks now regularly account for less than 5 percent of total streams. That rate was twice as high just three years ago. The mix of songs actually purchased by consumers is even more tilted toward older music. The current list of most-downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the previous century, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police.
Robert Malone claims to have invented mRNA technology. Why is he trying so hard to undermine its use?
Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET on August 23, 2021
Robert Malone—a medical doctor and an infectious-disease researcher—recently suggested that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might actually make COVID-19 infections worse. He chuckled as he imagined Anthony Fauci announcing that the vaccination campaign was all a big mistake (“Oh darn, I was wrong!”) and would need to be abandoned. When he floated that nightmare scenario during a recent podcast interview with Steve Bannon, both men seemed almost delighted at the prospect of public-health officials and pharmaceutical companies getting their comeuppance. “This is a catastrophe,” Bannon declared, beaming at his guest. “You’re hearing it from an individual who invented the mRNA [vaccine] and has dedicated his life to vaccines. He’s the opposite of an anti-vaxxer.”
Some believe Putin has not only Ukraine, but the whole West, exactly where he wants it. A more balanced consideration is in order.
A terrible thing may be impending in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, subversion, sabotage, and murder await, although such miseries have been going on for some time without the West paying much attention. But a Russian onslaught, to include air and missile strikes followed by an invasion, would be a lot worse. Thousands of people may die, and the foundations of European security would be rocked as they have not been since the early days of the Cold War.
Even so, the degree of public hand-wringing and even despair in the United States is excessive, and not just in comparison with the relative phlegmatism of the Ukrainian population. The commentary on the Russian buildup and threats has taken many forms—pointless quarter-century-old recriminations about NATO expansion, foolish psychotherapeutic diagnoses of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s need for “respect,” assertions that the Biden administration’s weakness created this situation, and, above all, the belief that Putin has not only Ukraine, but the whole West, including the United States, exactly where he wants it. A more balanced consideration is in order.
If nominated, Ketanji Brown Jackson wouldn’t necessarily change the Court’s balance. But she would make history.
Like an air-horn blast at summer camp, the news of 83-year-old United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement is calling Democrats to attention. For the first time since 2016, when then-President Barack Obama tried and failed to appoint Merrick Garland to the bench, a Democratic president has the chance to fill an open seat on the Supreme Court, and this time around, he will likely be successful. But who will President Joe Biden choose?
We know that his nominee will almost certainly be a woman. In 2020, then-candidate Biden vowed that he would respond to a Supreme Court opening by nominating a Black woman. Dozens of candidates are being talked about, but nearly all of the Court watchers I interviewed for this story have their money on one in particular: Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Since last summer, the conservative campaign against vaccination has claimed thousands of lives for no ethically justifiable purpose.
In the earlyphases of the pandemic, as the coronavirus spread in the United States and doctors and pharmacists and supermarket clerks continued to work and risk infection, some commentators made reference—metaphorical reference, fast and loose and over the top—to ritual human sacrifice. The immediate panicky focus on resuming business as usual in order to keep the stock market from crashing was the equivalent of “those who offered human sacrifices to Moloch,” according to the writer Kitanya Harrison. That first summer, as Republicans settled into their anti-testing, anti-lockdown, anti-mask, nothing-to-worry-about orthodoxy, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said it was “like a policy of mass human sacrifice.” The anthropology professor Shan-Estelle Brown and the researcher Zoe Pearson wrote that people who continued to do their jobs outside their homes were essentially victims of “involuntary human sacrifice, made to look voluntary.” Meanwhile, people on the right likewise compared the inconvenience of closing down public places to ritual sacrifice.
The Bowlin family knew they had a history of malformations in the brain. But they had no idea how far back it went.
Of the three Bowlin sisters, Margaret, the middle one, was the first to show signs. She began having seizures as a toddler. Then the eldest, Bettina, had a brief and mysterious episode of weakness in her right hand. In 1986, as an adult, she had a two-week migraine that got so bad, she couldn’t hold food in her mouth or money in her right hand. The youngest, Susan, felt fine, but her parents still took her for an exam in 1989, when she was 19. A brain scan found abnormal clusters of blood vessels that, as it turned out, were in her sisters’ brains too. These malformations in the brain can be silent. But they can also leak or, worse, burst without warning, causing the seizures, migraines, and strokelike symptoms Bettina and Margaret experienced. If the bleeding in the brain gets bad enough, it can be deadly.
The new variant seems to be our quickest one yet. That makes it harder to catch with the tests we have.
It certainly might not seem like it given the pandemic mayhem we’ve had, but the original form of SARS-CoV-2 was a bit of a slowpoke. After infiltrating our bodies, the virus would typically brew forabout five or six daysbefore symptoms kicked in. In the many months since that now-defunct version of the virus emerged, new variants have arrived to speed the timeline up. Estimates for this exposure-to-symptom gap, called the incubation period, clocked in at about five days for Alpha and four days for Delta. Now word has it that the newest kid on the pandemic block, Omicron, may have ratcheted it down to as little asthree.
If that number holds, it’s probably bad news. These trimmed-down cook times are thought to play a major part in helping coronavirus variants spread: In all likelihood, the shorter the incubation period, the faster someone becomes contagious—and the quicker an outbreak spreads. A truncated incubation “makes a virus much, much, much harder to control,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me.
The real prize in Ukraine is the end of American influence in Europe.
Vladimir Putin likes to say that playing chess with the United States is like playing against a pigeon: It struts around the board, knocks over the pieces, shits everywhere, and then declares victory. Playing chess with Europe, in contrast, must be like playing with a child who has forgotten the rules of the game, claims to have invented new ones, and then sulks when no one wants to play.
For so long, many people in Europe, including the U.K., have comforted themselves with platitudes that “hard power” no longer matters, that spheres of influence are outdated, and, even, that geopolitics itself has become somewhat passé. Then Russia sent 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. Suddenly playtime was over and once again the future security of Europe was being decided by someone else, somewhere else.