The Atlantic Daily: A March to War, or Business as Usual
Both the U.S. and Iran are sending confusing signals. Plus: states move on Roe v. Wade, eyes on Greenland, the American obsession with serial-killer lore, and more
What We’re Following
Alabama’s abortion ban is about more than abortion in Alabama. Legislators in the state passed a bill that would virtually ban abortion in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest—following other red states that have sought similar restrictions in recent months. State legislators behind these bills know they will be challenged in court and probably lose but have their sights set on something bigger: Daring the Supreme Court to take on Roe v. Wade. With a reinvigorated conservative majority on the court, anti-abortion activists are seeking to have abortion rendered illegal nationwide—but the five conservatives justices may still be hesitant to knock down a decades-old precedent.
Greenland might see a permanent American diplomatic presence soon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled. Why? The U.S. and the largest island in the world (and mostly autonomous territory of Denmark) have long had many overlapping interests: Greenland, for instance, hosts the U.S.’s northernmost military base. But American interest in the very icy land (though rapidly decreasing in iciness) had waned for some time, until, writes Robinson Meyer, “2018, when it looked up to find that China was in line to fund three big airports in Greenland, including one in the capital, Nuuk.”
Could escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran spiral into an Iraq War 2.0? Some of what makes recent flare-ups between the two countries so confusing is that U.S. officials are citing reports of threats from Iran—without actually saying what those threats are. But the Trump administration has used brinkmanship as a negotiating tactic before, most notably with North Korea, so while tensions could escalate even further, they could also ramp down considerably, and abruptly, too. Smoke and mirrors, or smoke and fire? Kathy Gilsinan and Mike Giglio look at what we know and what we don’t.
+ “I supported the Iraq War in 2003 because I believed the Bush administration’s case that Iraq was again actively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons,” writes David Frum: Don’t repeat the mistake.
The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (The Atlantic)
What happens when a country’s leading university is pushed out of that country, by a government led by a man who once benefited from those very institutions and people he now opposes?
Such is the situation in Hungary, where the fate of the George Soros-founded Central European University now hangs in the balance, Franklin Foer reports:
As the board debated how to manage CEU’s existential crisis, a handful of trustees urged that the university defiantly remain in Budapest, no matter what the new law mandated. Soros didn’t do much talking, but he was clearly unmoved by the argument. The university had been toyed with long enough, he believed. There was a new class of students to admit, and they needed to know whether they would be living in Budapest. One trustee remembers looking over at Soros: “He had this look of finality. I thought, He’s just done with Hungary.”
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Why are Americans so uniquely consumed by the lore on serial killers? And why do women more than men seem to be drawn to the genre of true crime?
“Serial killers are in many ways a uniquely American phenomenon,” says Joe Berlinger, the acclaimed true-crime documentarian behind the Paradise Lost trilogy and the director of the popular Netflix series The Ted Bundy Tapes. In the video, Berlinger explains why this dark subject maintains its enduring grip on the American psyche.
→ Watch our full documentary on this American obsession
Jamie Morton reads from Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked series in My Dad Wrote a Porno (HBO)
There’s great delight in cringeworthy writing about sex in literature. Sophie Gilbert writes about this surprising “great democratizer”:
In Britain, where My Dad Wrote a Porno originated, the art of bad (-ly written) sex is so entrenched that it’s celebrated once a year at the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Awards. While neither Belinda Blinked nor E. L. James’s The Mister would qualify for the prize—it rewards only badly written sex scenes in otherwise good novels—they do have plenty in common with works by luminaries in the publishing world: Salman Rushdie, Paul Theroux, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Morrissey. In fiction, it turns out, bad sex is the great democratizer.
Consider Rocky Flintstone’s particular yen for unnecessary information. In the HBO special, Morton reads from a chapter in which Belinda goes on a kind of corporate retreat, spearheaded by a woman named Natasha Biles, who doubles as “the local female lifeboat member,” and who’s wearing a “comfortable yet sexy black leather trouser suit.”
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