—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.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
China warned Italy. Italy warned us. We didn’t listen. Now the onus is on the rest of America to listen to New York.
In the emergency-department waiting room, 150 people worry about a fever. Some just want a test, others badly need medical treatment. Those not at the brink of death have to wait six, eight, 10 hours before they can see a doctor. Those admitted to the hospital might wait a full day for a bed.
I am an emergency-medicine doctor who practices in both Manhattan and Queens; at the moment, I’m in Queens. Normally, I love coming to work here, even though in the best of times, my co-residents and I take care of one of New York City’s most vulnerable, underinsured patient populations. Many have underlying illnesses and a language barrier, and lack primary care.
The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?
The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.
There are two realistic paths to achieving this “population-level immunity.” One is the development of a vaccine. The other is for the disease to work its way through the population, surely killing many, but also leaving many others—those who contract the disease and then recover—immune. “They’re just Teflon at that point,” meaning they can’t get infected again and they won’t pass on the disease, explains Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at the UC Irvine. Once enough people reach Teflon status—though we don’t yet know if recovering from the disease confers any immunity at all, let alone lifelong immunity—normalcy will be restored.
Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
The government is showing how not to handle a pandemic.
By now, the global timeline of the coronavirus’s development has been well established: The first case reportedly appeared in mid-November; in December, the Chinese government was still attributing hospitalizations to a peculiar form of pneumonia; through January and February, the outbreak began spreading around the world; and its epicenter is today firmly in Europe and the United States.
Throughout, another set of events were occurring here in India. Late last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government introduced and passed a controversial new law, ostensibly in support of minorities in neighboring countries, that in fact openly discriminated against Muslims and undermined India’s secular foundations. Then, early this year, protests over that new law snowballed into a pogrom in which dozens of people—mostly Muslims—have been killed.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.
When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?
What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it’s reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.
“The thought of simply breathing in and out without coughing and reuniting with my children ... is goal enough. To—literally—live and let live will be enough.”
I can pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling off. My partner, Will, and I were on a bike ride on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, to escape our apartment and get some exercise. This was back when leaving a New York City apartment to get some exercise was still okay, or at least that’s what we’d read, or at least that’s what we thought? If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that what is considered dogma today might change tomorrow.
Ten minutes into our bike ride, I was overcome by an intense fatigue. “I think I have to go back,” I said.
Back home, I felt chilled. Took my temperature: 99.1. I’m normally 97.1, but still, not a huge deal. We’d been so careful about wiping down doorknobs, washing our hands, and keeping everyone except for our family out of our apartment. I’d been ambiently worried enough that my 13-year-old son could be a silent carrier of the virus that I’d yanked him out of his public middle school and off the crowded subways four days before Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled the plug– (far too belatedly, in my opinion). I was getting over a urinary-tract infection, so my fever, I thought, must be from that.
“This time of isolation could be a period of great growth or great struggle in your relationship.”
Humans have evolved with a drive to share life with a partner—just not all day long. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors on the savanna formed pair-bonds, but they parted in the morning to go about their separate tasks. So did our ancestors on the farm. For hundreds of thousands of years, even the most devoted couples have been uttering some version of that basic romantic principle: “I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch.”
So what happens now that spouses are staying home all day, and many unmarried couples suddenly find themselves quarantined together? The peril facing relationships quickly became obvious to the pioneers of this new intimacy on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where couples were cooped up for two weeks in their cabin during the ship’s quarantine. Ellis Vincent, a retired airline executive from Australia, told a reporter that he and his wife, Kimberly, were passing the time by having long conversations during which she displayed a remarkable memory.
The coronavirus is making me experience what Germans poetically call heimweh, the hurt of being far from your native land.
In times of upheaval or natural catastrophe, the State Department often advises Americans to avoid some of the world’s poorest nations. When ISIS took over large parts of Syria and Mali descended into civil war, the federal government implored Americans not to go to those countries. One of the pieces of advice it offers to those who insist on visiting them anyway is rather blunt: “Draft a will.”
These warnings speak to a set of assumptions so obvious, they seem almost silly to spell out. America is a rich and stable country. So long as U.S. citizens stay home—or restrict their travel to other developed nations—they are likely to remain safe. Travel warnings tend to flow from north to south, rich to poor, democracy to dictatorship.
New restrictions in Hong Kong show that a single round of constraints won’t be enough to beat the pandemic.
HONG KONG—As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases exploded in China early this year, Hong Kong, densely populated and connected to the mainland, was able to largely contain the virus’s spread. A combination of community response and official action held back the pace of infections, with the number of patients discharged from treatment until recently outpacing those remaining in the hospital. This month, civil servants on work-from-home orders were allowed to return to their office. Soon, private businesses started to do the same. Commuters began to refill the buses and subways. Bars and restaurants left largely vacant for weeks saw patrons remerge. As reports of outbreaks abroad worsened, Hong Kong appeared to be slowly returning to form.