The Atlantic Daily: Murder and Movies

Kim Jong Nam's assassination, White House press relations, Oscar predictions, and more.

Korean Central News Agency / Reuters

What We’re Following

Kim Jong Nam’s Murder: Malaysian officials announced today that the poison used last week to kill the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was VX nerve agent, a chemical so lethal that it’s classified as a weapon of mass destruction. Since VX can only be produced in a sophisticated lab, it’s a strong indication that the assassination was state-sponsored—and many suspect North Korea. Yet if Kim Jong Un did order the fratricide, he may have sabotaged himself: The murder undermines the myth of the ruling family’s invincible bloodline, and that’s arguably the only thing ensuring that Kim stays in power.

The Press and the President: Continuing Trump’s uneasy relationship with the mainstream media, the White House blocked several news organizations from a press briefing today—apparently in retaliation for coverage it deems unfriendly (though the deputy communications director denied that it happened). In addition, the White House admitted it had asked the FBI to dispute reports that Trump’s aides were in touch with Russian intelligence during his campaign. The FBI reportedly refused—but here’s why that request crosses a line.

Movie News: Among the 10 documentaries nominated for the Oscars this weekend, four of them address aspects of the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis. The films’ directors say they hope their work will help viewers feel a more personal connection with the crisis—and certainly, the Oscars will bring them into the public eye. Check back on our Culture page on Sunday for our coverage of the awards—and in the meantime, here are Christopher Orr’s annual predictions.


Two women ride their horses at sunset in Oberursel, Germany, on February 24, 2017. See more of the week’s best photos here. (Michael Probst / AP)

Evening Read

Matteo Fagotto on the Benedictine monk who saves manuscripts from ISIS:

As ISIS militants have destroyed countless artifacts, [Father Columba] Stewart has attempted to counter them by working with Christian and Muslim communities in hotspots such as Iraq and Syria. He has trained local teams to photograph centuries-old books with the help of the non-profit organization he directs, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML).  …

Many of the communities Stewart approaches have been scarred by years of war, persecution or displacement, and are wary of outsiders. Some are especially skeptical about granting Westerners access to cultural treasures, given the tens of thousands of manuscripts looted during the colonial period and now housed in various museums and libraries around Europe. This is where Stewart’s reputation as a monk comes into play.

Keep reading here, as Fagotto discusses why Stewart sees protecting Islamic manuscripts as part of his own Christian faith.

What Do You Know?

1. The first recorded use of the word “celebrity”—and also the first description of a respected person as a “star”—was by the author ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. In Finland, young children are taught the basics of coding through activities like dancing, storytelling, and the craft of ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. Antibiotics, antiseptics, and anesthesia were all developed as a result of ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Poem of the Week

From our March 2017 issue, “Pencil,” by A.E. Stallings:

Perfection was a blot
That could not be undone.
You honored what was not,
And it was legion.

And you were sure, so sure,
But now you cannot stay sure.
You turn the point around
And honor the erasure.

Full poem here.

Question Your Answers

Since 1857, The Atlantic has been challenging established answers with tough questions. Now, we’re turning to you, with a new weekly reader discussion series on the questions that complicate our day-to-day experience of the world. First up is a question The Atlantic’s been pondering since before the internet even existed: Does the internet make humans more creative, or less so?

Read some answers from our archives here, and then tell us about your own experience: Can you point to a digital distraction—Netflix, say, or Flappy Bird—that’s enriched your thinking in other areas of your life? On the flip side of the debate, can you point to a tool like email or Slack that’s sharpened your efficiency but narrowed the scope of your ideas? We’d like to hear your stories; please send them to, and we’ll include some of the best responses in an upcoming post.

Reader Response

For our April issue, we asked readers to tell us: What is the most significant fad of all time? Lucia Perry nominated Christmas:

[It] started as a fad among a small minority group, called Christians, in Antioch, Turkey, in the second century. It caught on with Emperor Constantine.

And Kirk Miller wrote:

Over a six-month span in 1975–76, 1.5 million pet rocks were sold, proving once and for all that there’s a sucker born every minute.

See more responses and vote for your favorites here; we’ll publish the results of the poll in the next issue. And go here to submit your answer to May’s Big Question: What was the most significant environmental catastrophe of all time?


Exoplanets imagined, Uber sued, dogs donate, Frank Ocean returns.

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