The Atlantic Daily: Struggling for a United Front

Where the now-declared national emergency goes from here. Plus Mike Pence snubs American allies in Warsaw, why Twitter is still pretty bad, and more

Jim Young / Reuters

What We’re Following

President Donald Trump did end up calling for a national emergency, in order to get the funds to build his border wall. It’s a consequential announcement, but one that was temporarily dulled by the president’s rambling, chaotic speech. He ad-libbed on the threat posed by gangs and criminal cartels—and even undermined his own case for the move by saying that he made the call out of political expediency, not necessity. The controversial decision now faces a dicey legal challenge ahead, but David Frum argues that’s only one of the potential roadblocks the president faces.

At a speech in Warsaw this week, Vice President Mike Pence took an unusual approach: blasting America’s allies. Top officials from Germany and France neglected to show up to the conference, which featured representatives from more than 60 countries, because its aim was to criticize Iran and support America’s reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions on the country. That comes after the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, a repudiation of Trump’s predecessor’s policies. Under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the administration has doubled down on the Obama-era move to disengage militarily from the Middle East.

Twitter may be the president’s social-media platform of choice, but for users, it’s dizzying to follow. That was made acutely clear in a high-profile, 90-minute chat on the site between Jack Dorsey, the company’s enigmatic CEO, and the tech journalist Kara Swisher: The discussion was clunky and difficult to parse, degrading Twitter’s goal of connecting people and letting them follow conversations. That’s not the only flack Twitter has gotten of late—it has a festering harassment and abuse problem that it’s been exceedingly slow to address.

Evening Read

A Friendship Baked in the Great British Bake Off Tent

(Wenjia Tang / The Atlantic)

Selasi Gbormittah and Val Stones, two former contestants on the beloved show The Great British Bake Off, forged an unpredictable intergenerational friendship, which they’ve maintained since that season of the show stopped filming in 2016. In The Friendship Files, a newly launched weekly Q&A featuring a pair of unusual friends, Julie Beck talks with both of them about the relationship:

Beck: Do you remember your first impressions of each other?

Selasi: I was very late, so they're all thinking, Who's this guy who is late? He's gonna be a problem. I turned up really late on my motorbike. I was soaking wet and I just smiled. I don't think I even apologized. I just said, “Hey, I'm here for the baking show.” And everyone looked at me like, Who the hell is this?

Val: You walked in in your gear and I remember thinking, Ah, it's that young man that I saw. And I realized, Gosh, he's gonna be real trouble, that one. But I was so pleased to see you.

→ Read the rest.

I Fell Under the Spell of NASA’s Most Notorious Thief

Thad Roberts was arrested in 2002 for stealing more than $20 million worth of moon rocks, and before that, as a college student, he showed a preternatural ability to get others to join him in occasionally risky pursuits:

“The professor boasted that the university’s own rising star, Thad Roberts, had just been accepted to NASA’s internship program. At 23, Roberts was a triple major in physics, geology, and geophysics, as well as the founder of the Utah Astronomical Society. He was determined to be the first person on Mars. He was also about to change the trajectory of my life.

→ Read the rest.

Our Critic’s Picks

Alita: Battle Angel Is a Living Cartoon of a Film


Read: A tender and at times inspiring account of the year since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, following a small group of student survivors turned activists.

Watch: Alita: Battle Angel. Indulge in the postapocalyptic action drama, if you can acclimate to the giant manga-style eyes computerized onto the lead actor Rosa Salazar’s face.

Listen: Accepting his Best Rap Song Grammy award for “God’s Plan,” Drake worked into his speech a sideways jab at the Recording Academy’s failures in acknowledging the work of female musicians and artists of color.

Poem of the Week

A Sylvia Plath poem, from this Atlantic Magazine from 1995

Here is an excerpt from “Pursuit,” by Sylvia Plath:

There is a panther stalks me down:
One day I'll have my death of him;
His greed has set the woods aflame,
He prowls more lordly than the sun.

→ Read the rest, from The Atlantic’s January 1957 issue.

Renewal Awards

The Atlantic renewal awards open for voting

The Renewal Awards, a national competition now in its fourth year, recognizes local organizations and individuals who are driving change in their communities—and helps them make an even bigger impact.

This year’s voting is now open. You can support the efforts of these nonprofits by voting for one of the 15 finalists, here. Five winners, including the Allstate Youth Empowerment Award winner, will receive $20,000 in funding from Allstate.

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

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