The Atlantic Daily: Checkups and Checklists

Trump took steps to undercut Obamacare, the Senate confirmed Nikki Haley as UN ambassador, ultrasounds acquired a political purpose, and more.

Stephanie Keith / Reuters

What We’re Following

Health Plans: Not too long after his inauguration on Friday, President Trump signed an executive order empowering his administration’s agencies to do all they can—within the bounds of the Affordable Care Act—to undercut that law. And that’s not just symbolic; the powers of the incoming Health and Human Services secretary are broad enough to cripple the ACA so it has to be replaced. The replacement option most often advocated by the GOP has centered on health savings accounts, which are meant to help families save money to cover medical expenses—but they usually come attached to high-deductible plans. There’s a new alternative: Some Congressional Republicans proposed a bill yesterday giving states the option to keep Obamacare in place.

Global Outlook: This evening, the Senate confirmed South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as ambassador to the UN. She’ll be representing a nation whose global status has changed somewhat with Trump’s election; as the new president advocates a more inward-looking foreign policy, some commentators have questioned whether the America can remain “the leader of the free world.” But just what does that Cold-War-era concept mean today? Perhaps a more tangible measure of how the U.S. relates to the world is through trade—and Trump, who’s already pulled the country out of TPP and now plans to renegotiate NAFTA, has certainly made changes in that part of his agenda. Here’s what to know about what he’s done so far, and what else is in store for U.S. trade deals.

Tracking Trump: So how is the new president doing so far? His first few days in office have been shadowed by controversy, but denials of reality aside, Trump’s agenda is moving forward. He’s had a series of symbolic wins on his campaign platform of keeping jobs in the U.S. More importantly, despite rocky moments during confirmation hearings, his Cabinet nominees look set to be confirmed. By history’s standards, that’s a successful start to the term. By Trump’s own? Not that anyone would expect Trump to acknowledge falling short, but on the campaign trail, he did lay out 18 specific promises for what he’d accomplish on his first day in office. Here’s how he did.


Attendees gather on the National Mall during Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims that “All of this space was full when the president took the Oath of Office”; when the photo is enlarged, however, video screens showing the inaugural speech are clearly visible on the half-empty mall. See the full photographic fact check here, and read more on Spicer’s troubling media posture here. (Photo: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Evening Read

Moira Weigel on how ultrasound became political:

Since the mid-1990s, opponents of abortion have deployed ultrasound in their attempts to restrict abortion access. Five states have enacted “informed consent” laws, which require doctors to show their patients ultrasound images, and in some cases to describe the images, before performing an abortion. Two of those laws have been struck down by state courts. Twenty other states require a doctor to at least offer to show a woman seeking an abortion ultrasound.

These measures are based on two assumptions: First, that an ultrasound image has an obvious meaning. Second, that any pregnant woman who sees an ultrasound will recognize this meaning. Science does not bear either assumption out.

Keep reading here, as Weigel explores the history of ultrasound technology—and unpacks how it’s been used as a messaging tool by anti-abortion activists. And a reader today shared her personal story of an ultrasound that detected a fatal genetic disorder in her unborn child and compelled her to get an abortion. “To be honest,” she writes, “I still refer to what happened as a miscarriage: I lost my baby, rather than terminating my pregnancy.”

What Do You Know?

1. With 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land ties the record held by Titanic and ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. In 2013-2014, ____________ percent of U.S. public-school students received a customized learning plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. In a September 2016 poll, ____________ percent of Republicans said that they trusted the media.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Answers: all about eve, 13, 14

Urban Developments

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:

As the new administration takes shape, it’s getting right to work on its plan for the federal budget. Based on what we know so far, the cuts will be wide and deep. Here’s what Donald Trump’s bulldozer budget means for urban America.

Ah, the limousine: an unmistakable symbol of money and class. And when one is engulfed in flames, as you may have seen in D.C. after Donald Trump’s inauguration, it’s an equally clear signal of a challenge to wealth and power. It’s a versatile icon, and one that has been dividing us for more than a century.

If you drew a caricature of modern city life, it would almost surely be set in a coffee shop. From the impressive rise of Starbucks to the unlikely proliferation of smaller, even independent upstarts, these hubs of caffeine and wifi are staple of the urban environment, but we want to know: How did it get this way?

For more updates from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s daily newsletter.

America by Air

For our America by Air series, reader Stephanie J. Schmitz Bechteler sends a photo of Chicago, taken as her plane approached Midway Airport from the south. See more aerial photos of America here, and send us your own snapshots via (guidelines here).

Reader Response

Who is the worst leader of all time? That’s the Big Question we asked in our January/February issue. Reader Dan Fredericks of Janesville, Wisconsin, wrote:

Few can compare to the enigmatic Napoleon Bonaparte, whose grandiose, ambitious foreign policies and epic military blunders ultimately led to the collapse of the first French empire.

And reader Ahmad Alsaleh of Edinburgh, U.K., wrote:

Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, took a reasonably functioning country and left it vulnerable to radical revolutionaries. He lost the war with Japan and was losing his side of World War I. His misjudgment allowed Rasputin to become influential. That was a huge mistake.

More candidates here. We’re now collecting responses to the April issue’s Big Question: What’s the most significant fad of all time? Send your answers to, and be sure to include the reasoning behind your choice.

We Want to Hear From You!

Help shape our future by taking the 2017 Atlantic Audience Survey. The survey will be open through tomorrow, January 25, so now’s your chance to tell us what you like and don’t like about The Atlantic. Click here to get started.


Drama fomented, devotion demanded, undersea gardens grown, scientists take a stand.

The Atlantic Daily is written by Rosa Inocencio Smith. To contact us, email