War and Peace: Martin McGuinness, the former commander of the Irish Republican Army who later worked to restore peace as a leader of the Sinn Fein party, has died at age 66. A glimpse of his life in his own words is here. McGuinness’s violent past made him a controversial figure in Ireland, but he’s also remembered for his reconciliation work, including a close working relationship with his political opponent Ian Paisley. Likewise, Jonathan Powell, who spent 10 years negotiating with McGuinness on behalf of Britain, looks back with respect on McGuinness’s commitment to the peace process.
Check Your Email: Homeland Security has banned any carry-on electronics larger than mobile phones—including laptops, tablets, and cameras—on flights to the U.S. from 10 major Middle Eastern airports. The new rules, which require the devices to be placed in checked baggage, come with some enforcement and safety issues—but as one security expert explains, they also reflect how ubiquitous electronics have made it easier for a potential bomber to smuggle explosives.
Political Updates: As Judge Neil Gorsuch continued his confirmation hearings in the Senate—without revealing much new information about his beliefs—Trump gave conservatives an ultimatum on the American Health Care Act, saying Democrats might retake the House if the GOP doesn’t follow through on repealing Obamacare. As Trump said,“a loss is not acceptable” for AHCA—and it wouldn’t bode well for the president’s ability to rally his party either. But it’s not the first time in recent history that an administration has floundered in the first few months, and Trump can take lessons from Bill Clinton on how to straighten out chaos in the White House.
Not knowing what people liked gave you a peculiar kind of freedom. … Newspapers and magazines used to have a rather coarse model of their audience. It used to be that they couldn’t be sure how many people read each of their articles; they couldn’t see on a dashboard how much social traction one piece got as against the others. They were more free to experiment, because it was never clear ex-ante what kind of article was likely to fail. This could, of course, lead to deeply indulgent work that no one would read; but it could also lead to unexpected magic.
Is it any coincidence that the race to the bottom in media—toward clickbait headlines, toward the vulgar and prurient and dumb, toward provocative but often exaggerated takes—has accelerated in lock-step with the development of new technologies for measuring engagement?
Keep reading here, as Somers describes how “Like” buttons made the web less interesting. Netflix would disagree, though—the streaming platform just announced it’s replacing its five-star ratings system with a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down one, designed to be less performative and more personal.
If you long for the freedom of not knowing what other people think, we’ve got a question for you: This week in our Question Your Answers discussion series, we’re exploring whether solitude can bring people closer together. Over the last 160 years, many authors in our archives have touted the universal benefits of solitary reflection. But how do you incorporate such introspection into a 21st-century lifestyle? Tell us about your experience via firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Do You Know?
1. In January 2013, Beijing’s levels of the air-pollution particulate PM 2.5 rose far above the safety limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) to more than ____________ (µg/m³).
Jorge Ortiz Colom captured this picturesque view just south of Philadelphia:
This is Fort Mifflin with the Delaware River in the background. The fortification was built in 1771 by British authorities as a reaction to the instability of the just-finished French and Indian War. When the United States War for Independence began, the fort was quickly seized by the insurgents and it was continuously repaired by American and French soldiers. It was used as a prison in the War Between the States of the 1860s and it had other minor military roles afterward. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1970.
This photograph was taken from an Airbus A320 airplane landing in Philadelphia International Airport on the late afternoon of Oct. 11, 2015, as I flew in to board another flight to Spain. It was taken with a Sony DSC-HX10V point-and-shoot camera, which has a tendency to delay the shutter slightly—but I was able to anticipate, albeit briefly, the fort, so I had the good fortune of the shutter going off at the right time!
Early in my second pregnancy, the doctor could see I was pregnant with twins, with one of the twins showing delayed development. The doctor told me to just wait and see what happened, and so I did. In our next check-up, we saw that one of the twins had vanished.
Exactly the same thing happened with my fourth pregnancy: Initially we saw (identical) twins, with one of them being less well developed than the other. I had read enough about twin pregnancies to know that one of the twins being less developed may be a liability for the pregnancy as a whole. When one of the twins dies in utero, it may “poison” the other one, so to speak, resulting in a miscarriage of both.
I have never considered—not for one second—the losses early on in my pregnancies (the miscarriages, the vanishing twins) as “children lost.” Rather, I was happy to have the totality of my attempts resulting in two healthy, beautiful children. I feel very blessed.
Read the rest of her story, and several others, here.