The Atlantic Daily: Crossing the Line

Trump’s border wall riled Mexico’s president, executive-order drafts addressed torture and refugees, State Department officials stepped down, and more.

Tomas Bravo / Reuters

What We’re Following

Border Disorder: A day after President Trump signed his order to build a wall, the repercussions are already playing out. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto fought out the issue on Twitter, with Peña Nieto canceling a scheduled meeting over Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay. A confusing series of statements from Sean Spicer followed, as the press secretary first said the wall would be paid for with a border tax on Mexican imports, then describing such a tax as a hypothetical option. We talked to Christopher Wilson, a scholar of U.S.-Mexican economic relations, about what all this means for the future of NAFTA and for the relationship between the two countries. His initial assessment? “Well, it’s not good.”

Executive Orders: Two more drafts from Trump have been published, and though they’re not yet signed, each one is enough to alarm human-rights advocates. The first order, on refugee policy, seeks to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks by severely limiting the number of refugees accepted—from Muslim-majority nations in particular. Syrian refugees will be banned completely. In this interview, immigration law professor Jennifer Gordon explains the plan’s potential impact. Trump’s other draft raises the possibility of bringing back torture—although he would likely need Congressional help to make that possible. Congress, for its part, spent much of Obama’s term pushing back on aggressive use of executive authority—but so far, Trump’s many executive orders don’t seem to have concerned GOP leaders.

State of the State: All of this might bode ill for U.S. diplomacy, and the situation in the State Department inspires little more confidence. Today, several top officials abruptly left their posts under disputed circumstances: Initial reports said they’d resigned, while the Trump administration claimed they’d been fired. One leader who’s adjusting more successfully to the Trump presidency is Senator Tom Cotton, who—in an interview with Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg—seemed to modulate some of his former idealism about America’s role as a beacon of freedom. “Even a shining city on a hill … needs walls to defend itself,” Cotton said—and indeed, Trump’s shift toward nationalism and protectionism may mark the end of an era.


A man fleeing wildfires in Santa Olga, Chile, carries his belongings by the side of the road. Chile is currently experiencing the worst wildfires of its modern history. More photos here. (Pablo Sanhueza / Reuters)

Evening Read

Jocelyn Heath on the history of the sewing machine:

The nuanced movements required in hand sewing … represent the most critical design problem of the early sewing machine: what parts should and shouldn’t move. Isaac Singer, whose name remains synonymous with the sewing machine, solved it. His approach was the first to hold the machine’s “arm” rigid and have only the needle on its bar move up and down. Perhaps he noticed the back-and-forth motion of a seamstress’s hand and needle compared with the relative immobility of the arm as a whole.

The way Singer’s machines mirror the mechanics of the human body, in fact, may be why they were among the first to be sold at-large to homemakers for individual use. … Previous generations would have seen the machine as lacking the care and precision of hand sewing; haste made waste in that the quality couldn’t equal that of a one-of-a-kind piece. But was the machine’s work inferior? After all, the gears and needle emulate the motion of a hand sewing from muscle memory developed from practice.

Keep reading here, as Heath describes how, even after automation, sewing remained an heirloom craft.

What Do You Know?

1. The average age of American fast-food employees is now ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. Parents are ____________ times more likely to Google “Is my son gifted?” than to search for the same question about a daughter.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. A new study finds that the wage disparity between black and white high-school graduates decreased once states began to require more courses in the subject of ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Answers: 29, 2.5, math

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:

In a dizzying week of executive orders, let’s focus for a second on the crackdown on “sanctuary cities.” The Trump administration says it’s coming after cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and the punishment could affect up to 20 percent of some cities’ budgets. One big question remains, though: Is that legal?

To salt or not to salt? That is the question for Portland, Oregon, during an unusually harsh winter. The city has avoided salting its roads for decades, partly due to the environmental hazards that follow the melted water into nearby land and waterways. Residents pressured the city into changing its policy this winter—but was that the right call?

Parents know how important it is to teach kids to wear seat belts in the car, so why do most places haul children to school on buses that don’t have restraints? As a growing number of states look to change that, there are actually some compelling reasons to keep things the way they are. And so, the great seat belt debate lives on.

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

America by Air

From reader Touray Kungkagam, a photo taken above Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State. He notes:

The National Park is known for its old-growth forests and legendary snowfall. A world-record 93.5 feet of snow fell in the park during the winter of 1971-1972.

See many more aerial photos here, and send us your own via (guidelines here). And speaking of forests seen from the air: Here’s how one scientist and his plane mapped all 300,000 square miles of the Peruvian Amazon.

Reader Response

Inga adds her story to our long-running adoption series:

I wanted to adopt and was devastated when our adoption did not work out. It is a long and very painful story in itself—one that others judge me for, and some of my friends became my enemies. … Embryo adoption gave us a chance to adopt again but avoid the trauma of mother-child separation from a traditional adoption—which clearly did not work for us. I did not consider egg donation because my goal was different; I wanted to adopt an embryo that was already created. …

I chose an anonymous adoption, and the embryo had been frozen for a little less than four years. … He is now 17 months old. … I do not consider my youngest child adopted, even if he is genetically not mine—because he is biologically mine, 100 percent. After all, I carried him for nine months and gave birth to him; how much more “biological” can it be?

Read the whole story here. If you had a traditional adoption that didn’t work out and you’d like to share your story, please send it to (Inga asked to use her first name, but we’ll post all stories anonymously unless you request otherwise.)


Pollock explained, workforce re-entered, utopias imagined, doomsday approached.

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