The Atlantic Daily: A Disaster by Any Other Name

Recalling Watergate and the Clinton impeachment. Plus understanding natural disaster, colonies on the moon, and more

Maddy Mudd, 25 hugs evacuee Terri Wolfe, 62, of Paradise, at a donation site for evacuees in Chico, California on November 18, 2018 (Terray Sylvester / Reuters)

What We’re Following

Disaster: With a death toll creeping toward 100 and tens of thousands of homes incinerated, California’s Camp Fire is an unqualified natural disaster. (For those reading this from a county or continent far away, you can visualize the scale of the devastation here and here.) But our modern understanding of the nature of a “disaster” is skewed toward the visibly calamitous, writes Charlie Loyd. About 15 years ago, for instance, an event killed roughly a thousand times as many people as these wildfires—but wasn’t framed as a disaster.

Trump Says: Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” President Donald Trump said in a statement about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month, against reports of a CIA assessment that directly implicates MbS. Does it matter what Trump believes about how to regard Saudi Arabia when it comes to new sanctions and policies? And continuing to burn in the backdrop is the Russia investigation—are there historical parallels to draw here to President Richard Nixon and Watergate?

Life on Mars: Hawaii had for the past several years hosted a Mars simulation, a habitat replicating as closely as possible how a human colony on Mars might play out. Then earlier this year, something went wrong, and the program put on hold. Now the habitat is in use again, for a slightly reined-in ambition: “Let’s learn how to live on the moon before we start trying to live on Mars.”


An oral history of the Bill Cilnton impeachment saga
Twenty years ago, a Republican-led House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. No president had been impeached since Andrew Johnson in 1868. This is the full story of that unprecedented process, as told directly by the people who were involved. (Illustration by Gluekit)

We want to know what you think about …

“In the spirit of a holiday when people, in claustrophobic proximity to their loved ones, feel compelled to take stronger-than-usual positions on issues of even minuscule import, I have a conclusion to share,” Joe Pinsker writes. “The correct time to eat Thanksgiving dinner is 4 p.m.” If you’re participating in a family Thanksgiving—or a Friendsgiving—this year, tell us: When is the correct time to start dinner, and why? Write to

Evening Read

Vaping is alarmingly popular among teens, and the fun, sweet flavors, such as mango, that e-cigarettes come in belie potentially serious health risks. Yet e-cigarettes also offer an avenue to quitting for longtime smokers:

These competing concerns leave the FDA trying to thread a particularly tricky needle: How do they get these products into the hands of the people who need them, while keeping them away from people who don’t already smoke? Vaping in general does show promise as a diversion product, even for hard-core smokers, a group of people who historically have a very hard time quitting a very dangerous habit. Because of the relative novelty of e-cigarettes, there’s no long-term data on what kind of health impacts vaping might have (and there’s little consumer transparency about what’s actually in vape juice), but medical professionals are generally doubtful that it could be worse for active smokers than continuing to smoke.

What’s the solution?

What Do You Know … About Family?

1. The first American Thanksgiving reportedly took place in this year. (The first event that the grateful Pilgrims referred to as a Thanksgiving actually took place in July.)

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. It’s the 25th anniversary of this spooky family-movie sequel, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. Each year, roughly 500,000 American men get this medical procedure done, and now some men are starting to schedule them in tandem.

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. Gracie McKenzie shares their top stories:

“The two stated pillars of American housing policy—homeownership as wealth-building and housing affordability—are fundamentally at odds,” writes Daniel Hertz, and it’s having devastating effects on the racial wealth gap.

Amazon’s HQ2 decision was always about transit, Laura Bliss writes: In the end, New York’s MTA and D.C.’s Metro were the only networks capable of handling the influx of new residents. But both cities will have some work to do.

Stop complaining about your rent and move to Tulsa. At least that’s what Tulsa would have you do: The Oklahoma city announced last week that a local foundation would offer $10,000, free rent, and other perks to remote workers who move there for a year.

For more updates like these from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s Daily newsletter.

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