The Atlantic Daily: Don't Bank On It

Kellyanne Conway made up a massacre, Trump ordered a review of Dodd-Frank, A.I. posed a conundrum for Christians, and more.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

What We’re Following

Fake News, Cont’d: During a TV interview last night, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway attempted to defend her boss’s travel ban by pointing to “the Bowling Green Massacre”—which never took place. Conway tweeted that she “meant to say ‘Bowling Green terrorists,’” but her gaffe falls into a larger pattern of the Trump administration’s “alternative facts.” One true fact about the travel ban is that it revoked 60,000 visas—though a DOJ attorney erroneously said 100,000 earlier today. That error was poorly timed, since there’s been a recent increase in fake news aimed at the biases of Trump’s detractors as well as his supporters. We talked to Brooke Binkowski of the rumor-debunking site Snopes about the rise of fake news among progressives and what to do about it.

Foreign Policy and Defense: In a surprising departure from a decades-long record of opposition, the White House declined to take an official position this week on Israel’s expansion of settlements into Palestinian territory. But Trump was much less reticent when it came to a recent ballistic missile test by Iran, declaring on Twitter that the country had been “formally PUT ON NOTICE.” There’s a price to be paid for such combative rhetoric, according to an interview with Robert Jervis, a professor of international relations. But when diplomacy translates to military action, accountability is a complicated thing. For instance, in the case of this week’s failed raid in Yemen, blaming Trump could be unfair and counterproductive.

Executive Orders: Trump this afternoon set in motion a plan to scale back Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street reform act that emerged from the 2008 financial crisis. Thus far, he’s only ordered a review rather than the demolition some feared, but his overall goal of reducing regulations could have far-reaching consequences. As for his other policies, the order on “sanctuary cities” signed last week has some similarities with Obama’s aggressive early record of deportations—but it also looks like the beginning of a shift in U.S. policy away from a path to legalization. One group that could be affected comprises those who arrived in the U.S. as children and were protected from deportation by Obama’s DACA policy. Some of them are now doctors—but they face an uncertain future. Watch our short documentary here.


Sima Azimi, who teaches the martial art wushu, poses with her students in Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 29, 2017. See more of the week’s best photos here. (Mohammad Ismail / Reuters)

Evening Read

Jonathan Merritt reflects on the time Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church would baptize Martians:

While playful, this odd scenario got at a serious question about just how far the church’s welcome can go. Should Christianity, the world’s largest religion, embrace all intelligent life? Even aliens? Granted, the arrival of green space creatures seeking salvation isn’t very likely. But the Pope’s lesson opens the door to the acceptance of another science-fiction stalwart, too—one that’s not so easily dismissed. Namely, hyper-intelligent machines.

While most theologians aren’t paying it much attention, some technologists are convinced that artificial intelligence is on an inevitable path toward autonomy. How far away this may be depends on whom you ask, but the trajectory raises some fundamental questions for Christianity—as well as religion broadly conceived, though for this article I’m going to stick to the faith tradition I know best. In fact, AI may be the greatest threat to Christian theology since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Keep reading here, as Merritt considers how intelligent machines would complicate fundamental Christian concepts like sin and salvation. And speaking of tech and morality, here’s one psychologist’s case for why virtual reality won’t make you more empathetic.

What Do You Know?

1. A blogger like Amber Fillerup Clark—whose fashion and parenting blog Barefoot Blonde has 250,000 monthly readers—can earn up to $____________ per year, according to her agency.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. The creators of the animated sitcom ____________ have decided that they won’t try to satirize Donald Trump.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. One of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s classmates at Harvard Law was the well-known Democratic politician ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Poem of the Week

On J.R.R. Tolkien’s 125th birthday, here’s a riddle from The Fellowship of the Ring:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Full poem here. And here’s our September 2015 story on how Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and their peers revived modern myth-telling.

America by Air

Reader Don Post credits this frosty shot of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield to his company, Stowe Soaring. See many more aerial photos here, and send us yours via (guidelines here).

Reader Response

Can marijuana help solve the opioid epidemic? Sarah Zhang explored that question for us this week, and a reader can personally relate. He writes:

First off, thanks for writing about this subject; I wish more people were. I had hip and back surgery in 2014 and ‘15, respectively. I was in severe pain for three years, and after one of my surgeries I was prescribed Oxycontin and Oxycodone for over six months. My prescriptions went from 12 pills a day immediately after surgery to “As needed,” but I couldn’t sleep without the pills. I lost 15-20 lbs during this time and eventually could not sleep more than one hour a night without the opioids.

I had never traditionally used marijuana, but thankfully, one of my friends gave me a week’s worth of CBD [cannabidiol, a chemical in marijuana that doesn’t get you high]. The first night I slept 16 hours, after three nights I got my appetite back, and after seven days I had zero “cravings” for a pill. The experience was night and day for me, somewhat literally. I went from being a zombie to being a contributing member of society.

If you have your own experience—positive or negative—regarding the use of marijuana as a medicinal replacement for opioids or other drugs, please send us a note: (We may post it—anonymously—in our Notes section.)


Discovery sparked, obsession birthed, leaders linger, futurist takes a risk.

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