The Atlantic Daily: Borders and Bots

Deportation memos, a Muslim in Trump's White House, artificial intelligence, and more.

Edgard Garrido / Reuters

What We’re Following

Immigrant Issues: Mexico’s government is not pleased with new memos from the Trump administration requiring people who arrive in the U.S. illegally over the Mexican border to be deported back to Mexico even if they’re not Mexican nationals. The country may refuse to cooperate—and it has a lot of leverage. Meanwhile, former DHS secretary Janet Napolitano has emerged as a champion of Obama-era programs protecting undocumented students. But the next big policy fight might be over legal immigration, if lawmakers embrace nationalist sentiments that seek to keep everyone out. Such sentiments were a major reason why Rumana Ahmed, a Muslim woman who served on the National Security Council under Obama, chose to leave the White House eight days into Trump’s presidency. Here’s her story.

The Voting Populace: In town halls this week, Republican senators have faced concern and criticism from angry constituents over plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s not just a partisan issue; many people who have relied on Medicaid benefits granted under the ACA voted for Trump in spite of his promise to repeal it—and a new report explains some of the complex reasons why they did. Could concerns like this be an opportunity for Democrats? The party is facing a choice: It can either reach out to moderates or mobilize the energy of its progressive wing. That latter strategy would mirror the GOP’s recent shift toward populism—a movement that’s found a surprising voice in Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

All About Bots: Developers at Google have just released an algorithm that’s designed to automatically weed out toxic comments online. Meanwhile, a new class of autonomous, “curious” robots is helping scientists explore the undersea world—including by finding things humans didn’t even know to search for. Artificial intelligence is developing fast, and there’s much more to come. But it’s not all good news: As technology keeps expanding, its role may shift so that it’s not serving humans so much as pushing us out of the way—and that’s already happening now.


Construction takes place along the U.S.-Mexico border in Dunes, California, on February 15, 2017. Two photographers spent 10 days this month traveling along the border fence, one on the U.S. side and the other on the Mexican side. See their photos here. (Jim Watson / AFP / Getty)

Evening Read

Lisa L. Hannett on Norse mythology:

Vikings weren’t known for their writing. That isn’t to say they didn’t have a way with words: They were skalds, storytellers, lawspeakers, singers. And many of the runes carved in the Viking Age (c.793-1066) survive today. However, these runic inscriptions are brief; wood, bone, and stone aren’t conducive to detailed narratives. …

The vast majority of what is now known about Norse mythology …  survives thanks to Snorri Sturluson, an ambitious and powerful chieftain, lawyer, politician, poet, and saga writer who lived in Iceland from 1179 to 1241. These dates are significant: They tell us that Snorri was recording these narratives roughly 200 years after the Christian conversion in Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. They also, significantly, tell us that “original” and definitively pagan narratives about the Norse pantheon do not actually exist.

Keep reading here, as Hannett considers what Neil Gaiman’s new retelling of Norse myths can add to the canon.

What Do You Know?

1. Ireland’s Killarney National Park is overrun with ____________—to the point where one politician has said the army should be called to deal with the problem.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. A Best Actor award for Fences would make Denzel Washington the ____________ actor in history to win three Oscars.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. What’s likely the oldest surviving footage of surfers in Hawaii was filmed in ____________—and it’s still available on YouTube.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

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:

We know how diet and exercise factor into the aging process, but what about neighborhoods? New research could help us understand how to build communities that are better places to grow old.

Is bus commuting in your town a total drag? When traffic snarled buses in Everett, Massachusetts, the city tried something bold: replacing street parking with a pop-up bus lane.

More than 700,000 men and women are released from prison each year in the U.S.—but more than three-quarters of them are re-arrested within five years. A New York nonprofit staffed mostly by ex-offenders might have figured out how to break the cycle of incarceration.

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

America by Air

This photo from reader Sean Reilly was too cute not to include:

My mom gave me this toy as a stocking-stuffer over the holidays. Both her and my dad loved it because it reminded them of the simple toys they used to have as children. Soon after I took this photo the plane detached and attempted to take-off. It quickly nosedived into the pavement. I guess they don’t make them like they used to.

See many more aerial photos from readers here, and send us your own via (guidelines here).

Reader Response

Regarding David Frum’s cover story on how Trump could build an autocracy, a reader adds “a philosophical aspect”:

If Obama was our first black president, then Trump is our first postmodern president. In postmodernity all truth is local, thus if you deconstruct any attempt at claiming an overarching truth, you’ll find a power grab.

This particularly applies to Trump’s relation with the media. If the media calls out one of his lies, it is seen by him and his supporters as not truth but a competing narrative—or, in today’s terms, #FakeNews. And so Trump has weaponized language, and any attempts at restraining him through shaming, appeals to tradition, and appeals to logic fall flat.

More reader comments here. Frum recently recorded a conversation with Atlantic editor Scott Stossel about his piece, including America’s prospects for becoming an “authoritarian kleptocracy.” You can watch or listen to the whole thing here.


Liqueur rescued, suburbs haunted, tax debated, winter warms.

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