The Atlantic Daily: Silence and Success

Senate leadership censored Elizabeth Warren, the global gag rule threatened funding for AIDS relief, Sean Spicer claimed success in the Yemen raid, and more.

Jim Young / Reuters

What We’re Following

Warren’s Speech: Last night, as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the civil-rights record of AG nominee Jeff Sessions, Elizabeth Warren was accused of impugning a fellow senator and forced to sit down. The silencing of Warren was based on a rule that’s rarely enforced, and it quickly backfired, as women on social media reclaimed the moment as a meme celebrating strength and resistance. It’s not the first time Warren has acted as a rallying point for progressives, and this confrontation positions her as a key opponent to President Trump’s agenda. But in this particular battle, the effects of her opposition are mostly symbolic: Tonight, with a vote of 52-47, Sessions was confirmed.

Health-Care Uncertainty: Though Republicans in Congress are still set on overturning Obamacare, Ted Cruz admitted during a debate last night with fellow senator Bernie Sanders that the plan to “repeal and replace” is still uncertain. Here’s where things stand. Overseas, the AIDS relief program known as PEPFAR—often considered George W. Bush’s greatest legacy—looks set to continue in spite of concerns that the Trump administration would scrap it. But other pieces of Trump’s policy—namely, his reinstatement and expansion of a “global gag rule” that blocks U.S. funding to NGOs that perform abortions or promote them as an option—may threaten the program’s ability to function.

Failures in Yemen: Last week, a U.S. military raid in Yemen resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL and multiple Yemeni civilians, including children, as well as the destruction of a $75 million aircraft. The White House, however, is claiming the raid was “highly successful,” having achieved its object of gathering intelligence in spite of the loss of life. That’s a grossly optimistic assessment, and it speaks to an ongoing resistance to uncomfortable truths that may make it hard for Trump to govern.  But when it comes to Yemen, the problem may be bigger than one botched raid: As military historian Andrew J. Bacevich asks, what are U.S. forces doing in Yemen in the first place?


A Tsugaru Railway train runs through a snowy landscape in Japan’s Aomori prefecture on February 1, 2017. During the winter, the railway attracts tourists by heating its passenger trains with a potbelly stove. More photos here. (Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty)

Evening Read

Sam Kriss on urban animals:

Not every city has foxes. When I lived, briefly, in Los Angeles, people were astounded to hear that I used to share my streets with the creatures, but not as surprised as I was when I first saw a coyote padding insouciantly down Sunset Boulevard in the pink and bleary dawn. Crows are the same: While other birds preen and warble and beg for crumbs from our hands, crows don’t seem to care for us at all; they’re in the city to wait for us to all die out, and then they’ll take over. A city with wild animals in it is always one just on the conceptual edge of being without humans.

This is the hidden message in the last episode of the BBC’s Planet Earth II, throatily narrated by David Attenborough and broadcasting in the United States this month. Most of the series is gorgeous and disappointing. … But the final episode, showing animals in the city, is spectacular. The natural world is no longer out there, in the eternal wilderness, divided from our own lives by an absolute ontological barrier, and interacting with humanity only insofar as we destroy it. Instead it’s rising up from underneath with a mocking challenge to the world we think we’ve built.

Keep reading here, as Kriss explores what makes the Planet Earth II episode on cities so startling.

What Do You Know?

1. In an average lifetime, an American woman who waxes will spend more than $____________ getting rid of body hair.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. Apeirophobia is the fear of everlasting ____________.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. James Baldwin, who began writing about queer sexuality as early as ____________, was one of the first American writers to openly explore the topic.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Answers: 23,000, life, 1949

Look Back

The first government-approved Japanese immigrants to Hawaii arrived on this day in 1885. Soon after, the U.S. acquired Hawaii as a territory, making its growing Japanese population a matter of concern for Americans opposed to immigration. In our March 1921 issue, James D. Phelan wrote:

The Japanese in Hawaii form approximately 44 percent of the population, and they are increasing so rapidly that, within a short time, citizens of Japanese parentage will be in a position to control the electorate.

To Phelan, this was an alarming state of affairs: He went on to warn that “a democratic form of government is destroyed by the infiltration of an alien and unassimilable race.” In our April 1921 issue, however, Payson J. Treat criticized such arguments as being motivated by racial prejudice, observing:

The opponents of the Japanese and other Orientals base their objections on the sweeping charge that they are unassimilable. … I would venture to hazard an opinion that, if the Japanese were given a fair opportunity, they would prove unusually assimilable. … The Japanese governmental organization, the schools and universities, the courts and codes, the industrial development, the merchant marine, the army and navy, all testify to the open-mindedness, the adaptiveness, and the versatility of the Japanese. To say that such a people is unassimilable is merely to confess that you will not permit it to be assimilated.

Read the full article here. Speaking of assimilation, here’s why immigrant kids appear to be more successful in school than their American counterparts—and why that so-called “immigrant paradox” is not so paradoxical after all.

America by Air

This image of Hawaii’s Napali Coast comes from reader Robi Drell, who took the photo from a helicopter. See many more aerial photos here, and send us your own via (guidelines here).

Reader Response

Nadine Ajaka took a historical look at the pressure American women face to conform to the beauty standard of shaving their body hair. Over in the TAD discussion group, a reader points to a contrary cultural norm:

Sikhs of both sexes traditionally never cut or shave any hair from the scalp or the body. Unshorn hair, known as Kesh, forms one of the five articles of faith of Sikhism. Followers look on keeping their hair as an act of love and respect for God, who made us hairy for a purpose.

The reader then points to this testimony from a Sikh American:

In short, Sikhs do not cut their hair because we believe that to be one with God you must maintain the form that he gave you. This includes not cutting your hair or shaving. Hair is one of the many gifts from God, and we should respect it. For this reason, Sikh men have long beards and long hair and many Sikh woman do not shave other parts of their body. If you look to other religions, many depictions of prominent figures have long hair—like Jesus and Moses. One explanation is because of the purity these individuals represent, and unshorn hair is one way of illustrating their purity.

Read the rest of the TAD discussion here.

The Renewal Awards

Twenty-five nonprofits from across the country have been chosen from nearly 500 nominations to compete for $100,000 in funding as part of The Renewal Awards, a project brought to you by The Atlantic and Allstate. The nationwide competition aims to recognize local organizations driving positive change in their communities and bringing progress to the country. Vote here by Friday, February 17, to choose the winners.


Fly traps, scientists sip, Nordstrom nagged, climate conserved.

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