The Atlantic Daily: Disarray and Departures

Headed into the government shutdown. Plus withdrawing troops, the five years that changed modern romance, the DNA legacy of the Spanish Inquisition, and more

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation letter to President Donald Trump, submitted this morning
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's resignation letter to President Donald Trump, submitted this morning (Jon Elswick / AP)

Programming note: The Daily will take a break on December 24 and December 25, and return each day with selections of the best Atlantic stories from this past year for the remainder of 2018. It’ll be back in full swing on January 2, 2019.

What We’re Following

Shutdown: Is it the most deadlocked time of the year? The U.S. government has been teetering on the edge of another shutdown, this time of the nine federal departments Congress hasn’t funded for 2019. The sticking point continues to be funding to build up the Southern border wall.

In 1995, then–Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich set the government on the path to a shutdown by sending President Bill Clinton a bill he knew Clinton wouldn’t sign. But the move had consequences for American politics that few could’ve foreseen; the same will be true of President Donald Trump’s standoff with Senate Democrats, however it resolves, writes Todd Purdum.

Any Given Friday: The White House foreign-policy team is in a bit of disarray—with Defense Secretary James Mattis’s resignation capping off the week—while the president pushes plans to withdraw several thousand troops from Syria and Afghanistan. (Though whether unending deployment should be framed as the only alternative to withdrawal is worthy of reconsideration, argues Conor Friedersdorf.) Stock markets are sinking in the U.S. and overseas. Are there staffers to replace the so-called adults in the room?

Cashless: As more and more stores go cashless and even cashier-less for the sake of efficient checkout experiences for customers, a clear group will be left out: the poor, and, in particular, unbanked people who may have low credit or work jobs that only pay in cash. Their options in the growing new digital economy are shrinking.

RBG: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent successful surgery Friday morning to remove two nodules found in her lungs during a CT scan last month. Though no other nodules remain, writes James Hamblin, that the two removed came in a pair could, alongside other factors, merit closer monitoring for metastatic disease in the future. For further reading, mull over Dahlia Lithwick’s piece on the irony of the modern feminist fandom around the justice.


The five years that changed modern dating
Since Tinder launched for all smartphones in 2013, dating apps have changed everything about how young people look for partners, introducing new problems and fixing some old ones. Ashley Fetters charts the complex evolution of today’s dating world. (Photo: Joe Readle / Getty)

Evening Read

DNA tests have begun to reveal the genetic legacy of Jews who converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. A recent study reveals the unexpectedly large extent of Sephardic Jewish ancestry that can be traced to Latin Americans today, writes Sarah Zhang.

In the case of conversos, DNA is helping elucidate a story with few historical records. Spain did not allow converts or their recent descendants to go to its colonies, so they traveled secretly under falsified documents. “For obvious reasons, conversos were not eager to identify as conversos,” says David Graizbord, a professor of Judaic studies at the University of Arizona. The designation applied not just to converts but also to their descendants who were always Catholic. It came with more than a whiff of a stigma. “It was to say you come from Jews and you may not be a genuine Christian,” says Graizbord. Conversos who aspired to high offices in the Church or military often tried to fake their ancestry.

The genetic record now suggests that conversos—or people who shared ancestry with them—came to the Americas in disproportionate numbers. For conversos persecuted at home, the fast-growing colonies of the New World may have seemed like an opportunity and an escape. But the Spanish Inquisition reached into the colonies, too. Those found guilty of observing Jewish practices in Mexico, for example, were burned at the stake.

Read on.

What Do You Know … About Culture?

1. DC Comics’ latest superhero flick stars the Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa as this comic-book character.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. This network, one of the top purveyors of kitschy made-for-TV films, recently released their 2018 holiday feature, titled A Very Nutty Christmas.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. This musician, who has broadcast their struggle with bipolar disorder publicly for more than a year, announced last weekend that they are no longer taking medication in order to bolster creativity.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Poem of the Week

Here is a portion of “Winter’s Tale” by Maxine Kumin, from our May 2009 issue:

Even from my study at the back
of the house I can hear an orange drop
upstairs, one of the last to grow

on the dwarf tree you bought me
thirty years ago. When it tried
to overtake the window frame

we cruelly lopped side branches and still
it blossomed

Read the rest.

Looking for our daily mini crossword? Try your hand at it here—the puzzle gets more difficult through the week.

Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Email Shan Wang at

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