—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.
It’s a shame that the standard way of learning how to cook is by following recipes. To be sure, they are a wonderfully effective way to approximate a dish as it appeared in a test kitchen, at a star chef’s restaurant, or on TV. And they can be an excellent inspiration for even the least ambitious home cooks to liven up a weeknight dinner. But recipes, for all their precision and completeness, are poor teachers. They tell you what to do, but they rarely tell you why to do it.
This means that for most novice cooks, kitchen wisdom—a unified understanding of how cooking works, as distinct from the notes grandma lovingly scrawled on index-card recipes passed down through the generations—comes piecemeal. Take, for instance, the basic skill of thickening a sauce. Maybe one recipe for marinara advises reserving some of the starchy pasta water, for adding later in case the sauce is looking a little thin. Another might recommend rescuing a too-watery sauce with some flour, and still another might suggest a handful of parmesan. Any one of these recipes offers a fix under specific conditions, but after cooking through enough of them, those isolated recommendations can congeal into a realization: There are many clever ways to thicken a sauce, and picking an appropriate one depends on whether there’s some leeway for the flavor to change and how much time there is until dinner needs to be on the table.
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs represent one of the most dangerous challenges since the end of the Cold War. But there are opportunities to stop it.
The drama that is playing out now over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program—accentuated Tuesday by that regime’s large-scale artillery drill—represents one of the most dangerous challenges for U.S. national security since the end of the Cold War. It is a crisis that has been building for a long time, as North Korea has broken through the nuclear barrier and possesses fissile material sufficient for 20 to 25 nuclear weapons, by one estimate. After many failed attempts, through pressure and negotiations, to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, three new elements have heightened the urgency of the situation.
First, North Korea is racing to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the continental United States. In his annual New Years address in January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared his country to be “in the final stage of preparation for the test launch” of such a missile. Moreover, experts warn, North Korea could at some point in the next few year years make the terrifying technological leap to a hydrogen bomb, which could be up to 1,000 times more destructive than the nuclear weapons that now comprise the North Korean arsenal.
Film, television, and literature all tell them better. So why are games still obsessed with narrative?
A longstanding dream: Video games will evolve into interactive stories, like the ones that play out fictionally on the Star Trek Holodeck. In this hypothetical future, players could interact with computerized characters as round as those in novels or films, making choices that would influence an ever-evolving plot. It would be like living in a novel, where the player’s actions would have as much of an influence on the story as they might in the real world.
It’s an almost impossible bar to reach, for cultural reasons as much as technical ones. One shortcut is an approach called environmental storytelling. Environmental stories invite players to discover and reconstruct a fixed story from the environment itself. Think of it as the novel wresting the real-time, first-person, 3-D graphics engine from the hands of the shooter game. In Disneyland’s Peter Pan’s Flight, for example, dioramas summarize the plot and setting of the film. In the 2007 game BioShock, recorded messages in an elaborate, Art Deco environment provide context for a story of a utopia’s fall. And in What Remains of Edith Finch, a new game about a girl piecing together a family curse, narration is accomplished through artifacts discovered in an old house.
The most comprehensive review of evidence on health consequences of caffeine use has just been published.
That’s what a Los Angeles news anchor said earlier this month, in response to the announcement that “the world’s strongest coffee” is now available in the United States. The product is called Black Insomnia, a playful nod to apotentially debilitating medical condition that can be caused by the product.
The anchor’s tone took a dramatic decrescendo as she read from the teleprompter: “The site Caffeine Informer says Black Insomnia is one of the ‘most dangerous caffeinated products.’” Her smile faded. “Oh. I’ll have to have this one sparingly.”
Black Insomnia is actually in competition for the title of “world’s strongest coffee.” Another, similar purveyor sells coffee grounds called Death Wish. They come in a black sack with a skull and cross bones. On its Amazon page, Death Wish claims to be “the world’s strongest coffee” and promises its “perfect dark roast will make you the hero of the house or office.”
Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
As Christmas approached in 2015, the price of pumpkin-pie spice went wild. It didn’t soar, as an economics textbook might suggest. Nor did it crash. It just started vibrating between two quantum states. Amazon’s price for a one-ounce jar was either $4.49 or $8.99, depending on when you looked. Nearly a year later, as Thanksgiving 2016 approached, the price again began whipsawing between two different points, this time $3.36 and $4.69.
We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. “It’s most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price,” Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard.
Activists threatened to drag local Republicans off a parade route if they weren’t excluded from a local celebration. Organizers cancelled the entire event in response.
On the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, perhaps 3 million Americans took to the streets in peaceful protest to register their opposition. When news of his travel ban broke, I stood at LAX watching Angelenos sing the Star Spangled Banner and Amazing Grace. Across the nation, peaceful protest against President Trump continues. But a violent fringe has been using Trump’s rise as a justification for political violence, as if his authoritarian impulses justify authoritarianism from his opponents.
This tiny faction knows that most of their compatriots on the left are committed to nonviolence, so they frame their aggressive actions as a narrow exception to the rule.
Most famously, they insisted that it was okay, or even righteous, to punch white supremacist Richard Spencer because he was “a Nazi.” That position impels the debate down a slippery slope. And now, activists in Oregon caused the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, a community event in the southeast quadrant of Portland, by threatening to forcibly drag “fascists” off the parade route if they weren’t excluded.
Who wins (the rich), who loses (anybody who doesn’t like deficits), and why it might take a miracle for the plan to become a law
There are two compelling narratives around President Donald Trump’s first 100 days. The first is his transformation from heterodox populist to orthodox Republican. Although he ran as a mold-breaking renegade, his economic policies come straight out of the conservative mold, from cutting business regulations to backing off threats to label China a currency manipulator and supporting plans to reduce health-insurance coverage for the poor.
The second story is that Trump has been more focused on optimizing for his own income and branding than for political victories. He has visited no foreign leaders, passed no major laws, given no major political addresses, and disappeared as the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare failed, all while doing little to refute accusations that he’s using the office to raise membership revenue at Mar-a-Lago and mixing business and politics in ways that are unprecedented for a sitting president.
Understanding how the disease evolves is the key to stopping it.
In early 2014, Laura Brealey was visiting her daughters in Singapore when she slipped on a marble floor and cracked her hip. She had it replaced, but in the process, the surgeons noticed that her breathing sounded odd, and told her to speak to a respiratory specialist. At her daughter’s urging, she did so when she returned home to London, England—and was told that she had lung cancer.
The doctors moved quickly. That same August, they cut out part of her right lung, and gave her both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The tumor disappeared. Things were looking promising. But the following summer, Brealey started experiencing fresh pain in her ribs. The cancer was back.
When I meet Brealey in April 2016, in a brightly colored room at University College Hospital, she’s about to start her third drug—a new one called nivolumab that her doctor, a young oncologist named Charlie Swanton, is hopeful about. As he preps her for the new treatment, he is also thinking about how to manage the severe pain that the tumor is causing, as it presses against the nerves that run along Brealey’s ribs. “It hasn’t been easy for Laura,” says Swanton. “When I first told her she couldn’t go back to Singapore to visit her family...”
The semiaquatic mammal leverages its own buoyancy and bone density to charge through the water.
People are talking about hippos this week, at least in part because the Cincinnati Zoo’s beloved baby hippopotamus, Fiona, is now three months old—a milestone that seemed uncertain when she was born prematurely in January.
Fiona’s doing great—so great that she’s “a little bit dangerous to actually cuddle and snuggle” anymore, the zookeeper Jenna Wingate told local reporters.
Which reminds me that wee Fiona will eventually, if she continues to thrive, turn into a grown-up hippo. And grown-up hippos are not—I repeat, not—to be trifled with. Consider, for example, this video, which my colleague Ed Yong shared with me yesterday:
Look at that hippopotamus go! After sharing this video on Twitter, I got several perplexing responses. Comments like this: “Not bad for an animal that doesn’t swim,” and “And … they can’t even swim!” There is even, someone told me, a children’s book about this: Hippos Can't Swim: And Other Fun Facts. As a long-time skeptic of “fun facts,” I obviously had to know more.