—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.
Will the danger mount each time, or will it fade away?
Two and a half years and billions of estimated infections into this pandemic, SARS-CoV-2’s visit has clearly turned into a permanent stay. Experts knew from early on that, for almost everyone, infection with this coronavirus would be inevitable. As James Hamblin memorably put it back in February 2020, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” By this point, in fact, most Americans have. But now, as wave after wave continues to pummel the globe, a grimmer reality is playing out. You’re not just likely to get the coronavirus. You’re likely to get it again and again and again.
“I personally know several individuals who have had COVID in almost every wave,” says Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious-diseases epidemiologist and the director of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, which has experienced fivemeticulouslytracked surges, and where just one-third of the population is vaccinated. Experts doubt that clip of reinfection—several times a year—will continue over the long term, given the continued ratcheting up of immunity and potential slowdown of variant emergence. But a more sluggish rate would still lead to lots of comeback cases. Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, told me that her best guess for the future has the virus infiltrating each of us, on average, every three years or so. “Barring some intervention that really changes the landscape,” she said, “we will all get SARS-CoV-2 multiple times in our life.”
It used to dominate American fitness practice. Now it’s all but over.
When I think of a sit-up, my mind flashes immediately to the (carpeted, for some reason) floor of my elementary-school gym. Twice a week, our teachers marched us there for ritual humiliation and light calisthenics, and under the watchful gaze of a former football coach with a whistle perpetually dangling from his lips, we’d warm up with the moves we’d been told were the building blocks of physical fitness—jumping jacks, push-ups, toe touches, and, of course, sit-ups.
With rare exception, we were bad at sit-ups. We’d try our best, taking turns leaning on our partners’ toes as they threw their torsos up and forward for a count of 10. But kids are floppy creatures, and sit-ups are an especially floppy exercise. In gym class, our lower backs hunched, our necks strained, and our arms flew away from their cross-chest Dracula pose. Once a year, beginning in elementary school, the Presidential Fitness Test required us to do as many sit-ups in a minute as our little bodies could stand. Eventually we were introduced to crunches, a truncated variation of the sit-up that made our by-then-adolescent flailing a bit less dramatic.
The first time it happened, she said, she thought it was a joke. On the stand in her defamation trial a few weeks ago, the actor Amber Heard shared her account of the first time her now-ex-husband, Johnny Depp, allegedly hit her. She’d asked him about one of his tattoos: the one on his bicep (the one he’d famously had edited) that to her looked like a muddle of black ink. The tattoo spelled out wino, she said he told her. Thinking he was kidding—Depp had publicly struggled with substance abuse, and Heard claimed he’d been drinking that night—she laughed. And then, she alleged: “He slapped me across the face.” Her response, she testified, was to laugh some more. “I didn’t know what else to do. I thought, This must be a joke. This must be a joke. Because I didn’t know what was going on.”
Middle age is an opportunity to find transcendence.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
The dirty secret of social scientists is that a lot of research is actually “me-search.” Many of us tend to study aspects of life that affect us personally, looking for solutions to our own issues. In that spirit, I celebrated my 58th birthday last week not with a toupee or red sports car, but rather by investigating how to have the best possible midlife crisis.
The midlife-crisis phenomenon has taken on almost mythic proportions in the American psyche over the past century. The term was first coined by the Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, who noticed a pattern in the lives of “great men” in history: Many of them lost productivity—and even died—in their mid-to-late-30s, which was midlife in past centuries. The idea entered the popular consciousness in the 1970s when the author Gail Sheehy wrote her mega–best seller Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. Sheehy argued that around the age of 40, both men and women tend to descend into a crisis about getting old, running out of time to meet their goals, and questioning life choices. She based her work on in-depth case interviews with 115 individuals, the most famous of whom was the auto entrepreneur John DeLorean. He went on to become infamous in 1982, when, at the age of 57, he was arrested for attempting to sell about 60 pounds of cocaine to undercover federal agents.
The basic rules of American democracy provide a veto over national policy to a minority of the states.
After each of the repeated mass shootings that now provide a tragic backbeat to American life, the same doomed dance of legislation quickly begins. As the outraged demands for action are inevitably derailed in Congress, disappointed gun-control advocates, and perplexed ordinary citizens, point their fingers at the influence of the National Rifle Association or the intransigent opposition of congressional Republicans. Those are both legitimate factors, but the stalemate over gun-control legislation since Bill Clinton’s first presidential term ultimately rests on a much deeper problem: the growing crisis of majority rule in American politics.
Polls are clear that while Americans don’t believe gun control would solve all of the problems associated with gun violence, a commanding majority supports the central priorities of gun-control advocates, including universal background checks and an assault-weapons ban. Yet despite this overwhelming consensus, it’s highly unlikely that the massacre of at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, yesterday, or President Joe Biden’s emotional plea for action last night, will result in legislative action.
Now, finally, the game is being changed. The government has ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid, committing half of the $10 billion in additional COVID funding that is being negotiated in the Senate; and Pfizer says that the number of patients taking the drug increased by a factor of 10 between mid-February and late April.
A disproportionate number of cases in the recent monkeypox outbreak have shown up among gay and bisexual men. And as public-health authorities investigate possible links to sexual or other close physical contact at a Pride event in the Canary Islands, a sauna in Madrid, and other gay venues in Europe, government officials are trying hard not to single out a group that endured terrible stigma at the height of America’s AIDS crisis.
“Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures,” Matthew Kavanagh, the deputy executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, recently said. For many years, following the outbreak of HIV, the fear of being judged or shamed has dissuaded some gay men from being tested.
That’s how long police say they left children locked in a classroom with a gunman as they repeatedly called 911, begging for help.
We were told today, in the latest version of events offered by authorities in Texas, that police left children locked in a classroom with a gunman for 78 minutes as they repeatedly called 911 begging for help, not knowing that their would-be rescuers were standing idly by. If there is a more poignant and more savage allegory for a country with a clear and urgent reason to solve an obvious policy problem that lacks either the will or courage to do so, it couldn’t be imagined by a vengeful god.
I don’t know why these children had to die like this, terrorized. I have wondered, when I’ve been too weak to counsel myself against wondering, how the surviving children from that classroom will live now. I think about the kids calling 911—just as they were told to do, just as we, adults, have always told them to do—hearing the operator, and requesting help. I want to know why their classmates’ lives are over. I want them to come back. I want none of this to have ever happened. I want this country to change.
To avoid more senseless bloodshed, the Kremlin must lose what empire it still retains.
The former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski once said that without Ukraine, Russia would cease to be an empire. It’s a pithy statement, but it’s not true. Even if Vladimir Putin fails to wrest back Ukraine, his country will remain a haphazard amalgamation of regions and nations with hugely varied histories, cultures, and languages. The Kremlin will continue ruling over colonial holdings in places including Chechnya, Tatarstan, Siberia, and the Arctic.
Russia’s history is one of almost ceaseless expansion and colonization, and Russia is the last European empire that has resisted even basic decolonization efforts, such as granting subject populations autonomy and a meaningful voice in choosing the country’s leaders. And as we’ve seen in Ukraine, Russia is willing to resort to war to reconquer regions it views as its rightful possessions.
Russia’s botched invasion has illustrated the diminishing power of heavy and expensive military power.
Nearly 80 years on from the end of World War II, it is striking how much of that conflict remains with us. This is of course true in terms of historic legacy—politicians who compare themselves to Churchill, for example, or fears of German power within Europe.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes clear that we still live in World War II’s shadow in other ways too. The Russian military, for example, shares many similarities with the great armies of that period. The country’s ground forces are built around large numbers of heavy armored vehicles, most famously tanks, and concentrations of heavy artillery. Much like the German Wehrmacht’s plans for attacking the Soviet Union in 1941, the Russians expected to blast holes in Ukrainian lines with their big guns, and then move tanks and armored personnel carriers through the gaps to make rapid advances, with Russian fighters and bombers in support. Even the Russian navy, with its large surface vessels not too dissimilar in shape and size from those you could have seen in the Pacific or North Atlantic in the early 20th century, was discussed as a force capable of launching an amphibious assault on the Ukrainian coast, much as the Allies did on D-Day in June 1944.