The Atlantic Daily: Planetary Politics

GOP environmentalists hoped Trump would fight climate change, two credit-reporting firms were caught lying to consumers, the urban-rural divide increased around the world, and more.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

What We’re Following

Making Waves: A new study in the journal Science Advances confirms that the world’s oceans have steadily warmed for the past five decades, flying in the face of speculation by Representative Lamar Smith that similar findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were politically biased. The research underscores how climate change is a scientific fact—and thus solutions can and should come from both sides of the aisle. Toward that goal, a small group of GOP environmentalists is hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump—despite his ominous record of denying climate science—will pursue solutions using the free market. In the meantime, President Obama has shored up another environmental legacy: With the creation and expansion of several marine monuments, he’s protected more ocean than any other U.S. president.

Speaking of Legacy: Republicans in Congress will likely vote soon to repeal Obamacare, although they haven’t yet proposed a specific plan to replace it. Instead, they’ll likely delay the phase-out in hopes of easing the transition—but this approach could still cause chaos in the health-care market as patients scramble to get coverage while they can. Also worrying for consumers: An investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reveals that two major credit-reporting agencies, Equifax and Transunion, have been deceiving customers by misrepresenting their score reports and using misleading ads.

Political Geography: In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, one of the most discussed factors has been the urban-rural divide—a cultural disconnect between city-dwellers and country communities, coupled with an electoral system that gives people in less populated areas more relative power. That issue isn’t limited to Americans: Over 20 other countries, notably Japan and Argentina, have systems that favor rural voters, sometimes with serious policy consequences. Back in the U.S., Democrats are trying to work within the system by renewing their focus on local politics—but here’s why that shift might be too difficult.


Red-hot rolled steel sits on the production line at a factory in Changzhou, China. The nation produces half the world’s crude steel—over 800 million metric tons—every year. See more photos of China’s steel industry here. (Kevin Frayer / Getty)

Evening Read

Jessica Lahey on “design thinking,” one of education’s latest buzzwords:

Historically, creativity has been portrayed as a mysterious, elusive force—a gift from the gods or the muses. Creativity can’t be summoned, the thinking goes, let alone taught to the mentally inflexible, unimaginative, muse-less masses. Design thinking upends that perception and assumes that anyone can be a creative problem-solver.

At its best, design thinking incorporates proven-effective teaching techniques such as self-directed inquiry and collaborative problem-solving, and dovetails nicely with social-emotional learning curricula that emphasize interpersonal skills such as collaboration and empathy. And the end result of a design-thinking project is often a tangible product, such as a model city, a robot, or a better mousetrap.  It’s no surprise, then, that many educators are eager to adopt design thinking as a way to plan their own teaching and as a strategy for helping their students learn through solving real-world problems. … If it is hastily and inexpertly implemented by educators with a weak or incomplete understanding of its principles, however, it is likely to be a waste of energy and precious classroom time.

Keep reading here, as Lahey explains what exactly design thinking is, and how teachers can make the best use of it.

What Do You Know?

1. Scientists estimate that the moon holds ____________ metric tons of the rare isotope helium-3, and 40 tons could power the U.S. for a year.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. A new study finds that hedge-fund managers’ investment returns tend to be about 17 percent less stable if the traders ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. People whose diets are high in ____________ have a risk of heart disease that’s 40 percent lower than average.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Reader Response

Yesterday, after publishing a photo essay on naturalization ceremonies in the U.S, we asked for anecdotes about choosing to become an American. Alex writes:

I became a citizen of this country on 9/11/08 after having emigrated from the Netherlands in 1970. The main reason I wanted to become a citizen is so I could vote for Barack Obama as president of these United States of America.

It was a very proud day for me. My wife, other family, and some good friends were with me at the Los Angeles convention center, and there were thousands of people being sworn in that day. The thing that struck me was that some of them really didn’t seem to give a damn about what was happening, while for me—all dressed up in my best suit and tie—it was really quite emotional. The judge was very eloquent in describing the various benefits and duties of a U.S. citizen. After the ceremony was over, I walked proudly with tears in my eyes and took my family and friends to a fancy restaurant to celebrate.

I have always felt optimistic about this country, in all the years that I’ve been here—until now, with the election of the most unqualified individual to ever hold the office of the president. I feel angry, sad, and very worried about where this complete buffoon will take us.

If you’re a naturalized U.S. citizen and would like to share your own story, please send it to

Look Back

On this day in 1847, Samuel Colt—described in our November 1880 issue as “a man of fine presence … and of indomitable perseverance”—sold a thousand of his first revolvers to the Texas Rangers. In our November 2000 issue, Richard Slotkin described how firearms subsequently spread:

The techniques of mass production and serial fire perfected by Samuel Colt made guns cheaper to own and easier to use. The handgun—which had been a luxury item in the days of the single-shot flint pistol—was now a viable weapon for the ordinary citizen interested in self-defense and killing small game. But lower prices alone did not cause gun ownership to spread. The California Gold Rush and the opening of the Far West to settlement increased population and activity in the contested borderlands between the United States and Mexico and around Native American tribes. The expansion of slavery into unsettled districts and the growth of large plantations (coupled with abolitionist agitation) led to more arming of planters' households and patrols. …

This initial increase in gun circulation led to further gun purchases. In the pre-[Civil War] period firearms were relatively rare even in those areas where the threat of violence was great. But where many or most men carry guns, a gun will be seen as necessary for self-defense—and for self-respect. What [author Michael] Bellesiles says of the 1870s is equally valid today: “The fear becomes the danger, as Americans acted on the imagined terrors around them and armed themselves for private protection.”

In the newsletter dated January 3, 2017, we accidentally included a broken link to CityLab’s story on America’s economic distress belt. Sorry about that! You can read the article here.

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