—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.
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.