What We’re Following
Cabinet of Wonders: The week of Donald Trump’s inauguration is here, and one last member of his Cabinet—the Secretary of Agriculture—still has yet to be nominated. The delay has caused consternation among interest groups and may illustrate the challenges Trump will face while reconciling his campaign promises with day-to-day governance. Meanwhile, confirmation hearings for the other nominees continue, with Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos testifying this evening. As a former lobbyist, she’s made a career of advocating for vouchers and charter schools—but now, like Trump, she’ll have to translate her strong views into effective policy. Read all our updates on the hearings here.
Health Care: For now, it looks like the Trump administration’s most immediate policy challenge will be replacing Obamacare, after GOP legislators cleared the way to repeal the law on Friday. Paradoxically, the voters given most credit for supporting Trump—the older white working class—may be among the Americans most at risk from the law’s repeal, which places their Republican representatives in a tricky position. Meanwhile, scrapping the law will likely have big economic consequences—particularly for women, thousands of whom are more financially secure as a result of Obamacare coverage. But Obama isn’t the only president whose public-health legacy may be in doubt; Trump’s team has considered scrapping PEPFAR, George W. Bush’s highly successful program for AIDS relief in Africa—a move that could have tragic and devastating consequences.
As for Foreign Policy: The president-elect made some European leaders uneasy this weekend when, in a joint interview with The Times of London and the German tabloid Bild, he called NATO “obsolete” and doubted the future of the EU. He cited immigration and refugee policy as his main reason for predicting that other countries would soon follow Britain in exiting the union. For her part, British Prime Minister Theresa May today offered her clearest outline yet of what a post-Brexit Europe will look like, emphasizing British control of immigration from Europe and free trade between the U.K. and EU member states.
Who We’re Talking To
John Dean, who served as White House counsel under Richard Nixon, shares his fears for Trump’s presidency: “He is going to test our democracy as it has never been tested.”
Wole Soyinka, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, shares why he’s returning to Nigeria from the U.S. in the aftermath of Trump’s election.
Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, explains how states can protect workers’ interests—even if the federal government won’t.
Brit Marling, co-creator and star of the sci-fi series The OA, discusses the inspiration for the show, which ranges from French folklore to the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.
Mark Galeotti on the FSB, Russia’s infamous political police force:
Originally established to protect the Kremlin’s rule at home, it has increasingly moved into Russia’s foreign operations. A new cohort of secret policemen, ignorant of the traditions of spycraft and secure in Putin’s protection, has fundamentally altered the nature of Russian intelligence. …
By allowing the FSB to move into foreign intelligence and covert operations, though, Putin has—probably inadvertently—unleashed a beast. The FSB is playing a central role in current developments not because it possesses greater technical capabilities than the other Russian agencies, but because, for the most part, it does not recognize or respect the same limitations as the rest of Russia’s security services. To put it crudely, the FSB does the kinds of things everyone else thinks about doing but doesn’t because they’re too risky, too politically inflammatory, or too likely to backfire.
Keep reading here, as Galeotti traces the FSB’s rise to power. These days, though, you don’t have to be a powerful spy agency to learn people’s personal info. Here’s how a long list of unregulated people-search sites make stalking alarmingly easy.
Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing city dwellers around the world. Adam Sneed shares three of today’s top stories:
Of the 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians, eight are in one state: Florida. You might assume that has to do with its large share of older residents or sizable tourist population, but the data doesn’t back that up. With such astonishing rates of pedestrian deaths, the Sunshine State is now on a quest to figure out why it has America’s most lethal roads.
To understand what school segregation looks like today, consider the case of Gardendale, Alabama. The Birmingham suburb is now fighting to secede from its school district, as part of a larger trend of establishing barriers between richer, whiter schools and poorer, more diverse ones. For now, it’s up to a court to decide what this means for integration, and if it should go forward.
Europe’s largest pedestrian-only urban space is also one of its most fragile. But Venice may hold lessons for other cities struggling to adapt to a changing world. CityLab’s David Dudley explores the uncanny power of a city without cars.
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A reader revives our series of personal stories about infertility:
My wife and I have been married for three years. We decided to have children, and, as lesbians, were sent directly to a reproductive endocrinologist. We kept trying to tell the doctors and nurses (and each other) that we weren’t infertile ... we just didn’t have sperm!
Except it appears we are somewhat infertile. After four failed IUI cycles using my uterus and donor sperm, we reached the point at which we were told, “If it was going to happen this way, it would have already.” Our 20 percent chance was knocked down to 10 percent for further IUI, and they suggested IVF—or, to change tracks and let my wife become pregnant. My wife is somewhat gender nonconforming, and her view of becoming pregnant herself is that she would do it if it were necessary for us to have a child—something we both want. But she is uncomfortable with the idea of being pregnant. …
Everyone says we’re lucky: We have two wombs, and sperm is inexpensive compared to surrogacy. [But] the choice isn’t that simple.
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And speaking of feedback—thanks to your emails, we’re bringing back Verbs. Tonight’s returning edition comes with a shoutout to Claire, Julie, Holly, Ross, and Carter, who made the latest case for “whimsy, pith, and timely information”:
The newsletter dated January 13, 2017, mistakenly referred to Black-ish as an NBC show. In fact, it airs on ABC. We regret the error! Thanks to reader Wade for pointing it out.