—Police say five people, including the alleged assailant, were killed in a terrorist attack in London. Forty others were injured. More here
—At Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic senators adopted a new strategy to press Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on abortion and campaign finance. More here
—House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill Wednesday when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” He said he received this information through an unnamed source. The vague statement from the congressman and Trump ally did note that the intelligence was gathered legally and that there was no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower. But the news does throw a lifeline to President Trump after weeks of alleging his predecessor “wiretapped” him. As my colleague David A. Graham writes:
Nunes’s vague statements raised a host of questions, and his decision to announce them publicly and then go to the White House to brief President Trump, having not informed Democrats on the committee about his new findings, cast a pall of politics over the proceedings.
Trump said felt “somewhat vindicated” by the announcement, as former intelligence officials and Democrats on the Hill said the statement from Nunes was inappropriate.
Possible U.S. Airstrike Kills 33 Civilians in Syria
A possible U.S. airstrike killed 33 civilians in Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based network trusted by many news organizations, said the U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in northern Syria in a region controlled by ISIS. The school, located in the town of Mansoura, some 15 miles southwest of Raqqa, was being used as a shelter for displaced families from Raqqa, Aleppo, and Homs. Only two people survived the airstrike. U.S. officials have not confirmed whether the airstrike took place. U.S. military personnel were in the area that day airlifting around 500 U.S.-trained Syrian fighters. Fighting remains intense the northern city of Raqqa, the last ISIS stronghold and self-declared capital.
The U.K. Parliament was placed under lockdown Wednesday after reports emerged of gunfire outside Westminster Palace in central London, according to local media. Details about what exactly happened are not yet known.
This story is developing. For more updates, follow our live blog here.
More Allegations About Manafort's Russia Links, But Trump's Former Campaign Manager Rejects Them
Paul Manafort, who was chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, worked secretly a decade ago for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire, to further Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests, the Associated Press is reporting this morning, citing documents that laid out Manafort’s plan to hurt opponents of Russia across the former Soviet Union. For this work, the AP adds, Manafort received a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. Manafort and the Trump White House have repeatedly denied that Manafort, who previously worked for Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, worked to further Russian government interests. Manafort’s repeated that assertion today in response to the AP’s story, acknowledging he worked for Deripaska, but noting his “work did not involve representing Russian political interests.” Here’s more from the AP: “Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. … Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.” The allegations come a day after Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, said he had evidence Manafort tried to hide about $750,000 as payment in 2009 from a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine; at the time, Manafort was an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who was close to Moscow. Manafort called that claim “baseless.” On Monday, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers the bureau was “investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
Judge Gorsuch Prepares for the Third Day of His Confirmation Hearings
Judge Neil Gorsuch will face questions for the third day from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a day after he went before the panel and defended the independence of the judiciary, but refused to be drawn into more controversial issues such as abortion rights and gun control. As my colleague Matt Ford wrote last night, “attempts by the Democratic senators … to reveal new dimensions of Gorsuch’s ideological beliefs were largely unsuccessful.” Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee to fill the position on the U.S. Supreme Court made vacant by the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats were angered that President Obama’s nominee for the position, Judge Merrick Garland, was not given a hearing by Republicans, who control the Senate. The fourth and final day of the hearings are scheduled for Thursday. Despite some public opposition from Democrats and their supporters, Gorsuch, a widely respected jurist, is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate.
The United States has allied with Britain and Australia to form a new anti-China grouping.
A new world is beginning to take shape, even if it remains disguised in the clothes of the old.
The United States, Britain, and Australia have announced what is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. The basics are these: In 2016, Australia struck a deal with France to buy a fleet of diesel-powered submarines, rejecting an Anglo-American alternative for nuclear-powered vessels. In March this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (or, “that fellow down under,” as Joe Biden referred to him), began talking with Washington about reversing its decision. Then, last night, in a live three-way public announcement, Biden, Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the Australians would scrap their agreement with France to team up with Britain and the U.S. instead, forming a new “AUKUS” military alliance in the process.
Sure, it may be true. But that doesn’t mean it’s productive.
“Your refusal has cost all of us,” President Joe Biden said to unvaccinated people last week, as he announced a new COVID-vaccine mandate for all workers at private companies with more than 100 employees. The vaccinated, he said, are angry and frustrated with the nearly 80 million people who still haven’t received a vaccine, and their patience “is wearing thin.”
He’s not wrong about that. For people who understand that widespread vaccination is our best strategy for beating the pandemic, the 25 percent of Americans who still haven’t received a single shot are a barrier to freedom. Their exasperation is warranted.
But bullying the unvaccinated into getting their shots isn’t going to work in the long run.
What I learned about transcendence from a very boring 100-mile trek
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Last month, a survey by the travel industry found that a majority of Americans changed their vacation plans this summer because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. But not everyone canceled their vacations entirely; travel spending has been almost as high this summer as it was in the summer of 2019. Some would-be adventurers simply found ways to do the exotic things they’d planned to do overseas in less exotic places. One of my friends, for instance, went bungee jumping in North Carolina instead of Costa Rica.
For my vacation, I did the opposite: I went with my family to a fairly exotic place to do a distinctly unexotic thing. I went to Spain and took a very quiet 100-mile walk.
Anyone who’d rather have COVID-19 than get vaccinated is taking two gambles: that immunity will stick around, and that symptoms won’t.
Immune cells can learn the vagaries of a particular infectious disease in two main ways. The first is bona fide infection, and it’s a lot like being schooled in a war zone, where any lesson in protection might come at a terrible cost. Vaccines, by contrast, safely introduce immune cells to only the harmless mimic of a microbe, the immunological equivalent of training guards to recognize invaders before they ever show their face. The first option might be more instructive and immersive—it is, after all, the real thing. But the second has a major advantage: It provides crucial intel in the absence of risk.
Some pathogens aren’t memorable to the body, no matter the form in which they’re introduced. But with SARS-CoV-2, we’ve been lucky: Both inoculationand infection can marshal stellar protection. Past tussles with the virus, in fact, seem so immunologically instructive that in many places, including several nations in the European Union, Israel, and the United Kingdom, they can grant access to restaurants, bars, and travel hubs galore, just as full vaccination does.
A new study suggests that almost half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have mild or asymptomatic cases.
At least 12,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 this month, as the country inches through its latest surge in cases. But another worrying statistic is often cited to depict the dangers of this moment: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States right now is as high as it has been since the beginning of February. It’s even worse in certain places: Some states, including Arkansas and Oregon, recently saw their COVID hospitalizations rise to higher levels than at any prior stage of the pandemic. But how much do those latter figures really tell us?
From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.
To celebrities, the red carpet of the Met Gala is like an average person’s front lawn: a place for making bold statements. The event, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is made for flaunting ostentatious couture. The dress code is determined by a theme—this year’s was “American Independence,” in honor of a forthcoming exhibition—that can be interpreted however an attendee prefers. Tickets are $35,000 a pop. And for four hours, the invitees—normally the most relevant cultural figures of the year—get to mug for the camera before heading inside. As a red-carpet co-host, the actor Keke Palmer, declared at the top of last night’s show, “You can never go wrong with a message.”
Persistent hype around mRNA vaccine technology is now distracting us from other ways to end the pandemic.
At the end of January, reports that yet another COVID-19 vaccine had succeeded in its clinical trials—this one offering about 70 percent protection—were front-page news in the United States, and occasioned push alerts on millions of phones. But when the Maryland-based biotech firm Novavax announced its latest stunning trial results last week, and an efficacy rate of more than 90 percent even against coronavirus variants, the response from the same media outlets was muted in comparison. The difference, of course, was the timing: With three vaccines already authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the nation is “awash in other shots” already, as the The New York Times put it.
I like to think of America’s fast-food chains as a bunch of dysfunctional family members. McDonald’s is the golden boy, the kid who’s good at everything and won’t shut up about it. Burger King is the jealous younger brother. KFC is perhaps the cousin who still wears cargo shorts. And then, there’s Taco Bell: fast food’s problem child.
The purveyor of fluorescent nacho cheese is just plain weird. I’m not simply talking about those tacos with Doritos for shells. This is a brand that reportedly spent $500 million on an ad campaign featuring Gidget, a talking chihuahua with the catchphrase “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” A completely real tagline on Taco Bell’s webpage for its fountain drinks reads: “Taco Bell Cups, Matryoshka Dolls, and the Multiplicity of Human Existence.” (It only gets weirder from there.)
Vanishingly few people have legitimate reasons to avoid COVID-19 vaccination. Some say their doctors told them not to get vaccinated anyway.
In the battle against vaccine hesitancy, many officials have suggested that people talk with their doctor if they have concerns about getting vaccinated. This advice makes a certain amount of sense. Primary-care physicians are typically the doctors patients trust most, and doctors deeply understand the benefits of vaccines. The American Medical Association has claimed, based on a survey it conducted, that 96 percent of doctors are fully vaccinated.
In recent weeks, though, I’ve heard from several people with an interesting excuse for waiting to get vaccinated: They say their doctors told them not to. Most of the people I spoke with requested anonymity so they could share sensitive health information. Most would also not give me their doctors’ names in order to shield the providers from negative consequences. The doctors whose names I did get did not return my calls or declined to comment for this story, leaving it unclear what they really think about vaccine exemptions. Some of the people I spoke with may simply be vaccine-hesitant and trying to blame a doctor for their own choice to delay or forgo getting a vaccine. But because doctors are a large and relatively diverse group of people, with varied training, credentials, and personal politics, it makes sense that some doctors would have incorrect views about vaccination.
Will the Black body ever have the opportunity to rest in peace?
The photographs are about the size of a small hand. They’re wrapped in a leatherette case and framed in gold. From the background of one, the image of a Black woman’s body emerges. Her hair is plaited close to her head, and she is naked from the waist up. Her stare seems to penetrate the glass of the frame, peering into the eyes of the viewer. The paper label that accompanies her likeness reads: Delia, country born of African parents, daughter of Renty, Congo. In another frame, her father stands before the camera, his collarbone prominent, and his temples peppered with gray and white hair. The label on his photo says: Renty, Congo, on plantation of B.F. Taylor, Columbia, S.C.
In 1850, when these images were captured, the subjects in the daguerreotypes were considered property. The bodies in the photographs had been shaped by hard labor on the grub plantation, where they’d spent their lives stooped over sandy soil, working approximately 1,200 acres of cotton and 200 of corn. Brought from the fields to a photography studio in Columbia, South Carolina, each person was photographed from different angles, in the hopes of finding photographic evidence of physical differences between the Black enslaved and the white masters who owned them. A daguerreotype took somewhere between three and 15 minutes of exposure time, and the end result was a detailed image imprinted on a small copper-plated sheet, covered with a thin coat of silver.