The Atlantic is always trying to ask great questions. We know our readers are, too. What are your curiosities? What are the lingering questions you have that never found satisfying answers? We’ll be posting calls for questions around particular story threads on social media, in our daily newsletter, and in the thread below.
The Atlantic is always trying to ask great questions like these. We know our readers are, too. As The Atlantic’s new assignment editor, part of my job will be fielding your questions: What are your curiosities? What would you like to know more about? What’s not on our radar but should be?
Branching off of Chris Bodenner’s work here in Notes—selecting and editing your emails, comments, and feedback to our stories—I’ll be focused on fielding the questions you’d like us to think about in our work going forward.
You’ll see us doing this in a number of ways: We’ll be posting calls for questions around particular story threads in our daily newsletter (which you can sign up for here). We'll be tweeting at you. And we’ll be using Notes, of course, to keep the conversation going.
Many of my calls for questions will be specific, tied to a theme or a news event that’s grabbed our attention. But feel free to ask about anything: facets of the stories we cover, the weird ways your city functions, largely-accepted-but-never-explained cultural norms.
We’ll be digging into this development more, but while we do, we’d like to know what you want to know. What lingering questions do you have about Boehner’s resignation and its implications for Congress? Tell us here.
The exit of long-time Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the scrutiny of Common Core during the GOP presidential debates are just the latest signs that American education is in a period of major flux. Parents, teachers, lawmakers, and officials have long wrestled with the best way to prepare students for the world beyond school boundaries, as The Atlantic has covered more and more. But we still have a lot of blindspots, so maybe you can help.
Syria is now more than four years into a civil war, which began in the midst of the Arab Spring protests. The armed opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is made up of several groups, including ISIS, and major world powers (i.e., the U.S. and Russia) are butting heads over how best to respond. Caught in the warfare are roughly 4 million refugees and 7.6 million people internally displaced.
The complex causes, dynamics, and even basic details of this conflict can be difficult to keep up with. The Atlantic is working on a project we hope will clarify things, and we’d really appreciate your input in guiding it. So: What do you want to know about the Syrian civil war?
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Our latest news from Syria comes from the caption for the above photo, taken today: “Released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, this photo shows Syrians holding images of President Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a rally to thank Moscow for its intervention in Syria, in front of the Russian embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus. (The placard at right with Arabic reads, ‘Yes to Russian-Syrian cooperation.’) As those hundreds of pro-government supporters gathered, insurgents fired two shells at the Russian embassy.”
I’m pretty excited about the possibilities here: Our goal for the video series is to boil down some unnecessarily wonky aspects of the U.S. election process—because, frankly, it’s six shades of impenetrable for those of us who weren’t poli-sci majors (🙋).
Each episode, I’ll be sitting down with Atlantic staffers and outside experts for some help interpreting the major election checkpoints and dynamics in the coming year.
For the record, and to reassure the concerned readers we heard from during our call-out in November: I’m more interested in empowering voters with insight on these concepts rather than having our editors and reporters join the hordes of talking heads offering their hot takes. My hope is for these to be like an ongoing study guide to help people know what to listen for throughout this election year, and what to do with the polls, platforms, and outcomes.
This week’s episode featured Priscilla, assistant politics editor, laying out what actually happens during the Iowa caucus—taking us inside the room(s) where it happens, if you will.
We’re aiming to produce these pretty frequently throughout this election cycle. So I’d love your help brainstorming future episodes. Let me re-up that call for questions: What else can we untangle? What are the cryptic election terms and processes you hear thrown around casually, but aren’t totally sure what they are?
Impeachment is now effectively inevitable. Taylor’s testimony fleshed out the biggest open questions, including whether there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine (there was), what it involved (military aid), and what Trump wanted (investigations of the Biden family and the 2016 election.) Congress has now heard from career civil servants and from political appointees, all telling a similar story, and Taylor removed the last scintilla of doubt. With that, it’s all but impossible to imagine a scenario in which House Democrats don’t vote to impeach the president.
The senator is best positioned to pry the Republican Party from President Trump’s hands.
Donald Trump has never feared another elected Republican. Over the course of five years, he has bullied and insulted, mocked and complained about nearly every GOP officeholder past and present, including George W. Bush and Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake. He knew that the Republicans who dared to stand up to him couldn’t hurt him (Bob Corker), and that the Republicans who could have hurt him wouldn’t dare stand up to him (Paul Ryan).
All of which has led Trump to believe that there is no possible danger of the Republican Party being pried from his grasp. But Trump may at last need to rethink that calculus.
Mitt Romney’s attempt to excise Trump from his party started early. In March 2016, he became the only former Republican presidential nominee to take a public position against Trump’s candidacy. This act of resistance didn’t work, however, because while Romney had moral authority, he had no real power.
A framework meant to help people become more attuned to their partners now gets treated like a personality test.
The idea that there are five distinct “love languages” may be as familiar to some people today as the idea that there are seven continents, four seasons, or three Stooges—which is a pretty spectacular showing, all told, for a concept that was introduced in a 1992 book by a Southern Baptist pastor that was aimed mostly at married Christian couples. The author, Gary Chapman, based his theory that everyone has a primary love language (that is, a category of behaviors that they most immediately associate with affection) on his own observations as a counselor. Enumerated in the book and now well known to millions, the five love languages are quality time, physical touch, acts of service, giving and receiving gifts, and words of affirmation.
How a subreddit seemingly destined to devolve into chaos stays remarkably sane
“I cheated on my ex during our relationship and she found out shortly after we broke up,” a Reddit user posting from the burner account Khaleesiscorned wrote in the spring of 2016 in the subreddit r/relationships. “She’s blocked me on everything, but briefly unblocks me every Monday to send me Game of Thrones spoilers before I can watch. How do I get her to stop?”
The fullstory involves a number of details that are not particularly redeeming: The original poster actually cheated multiple times; some of his friends joined the ex in her cause because they no longer wanted to be associated with him and in fact actively disliked him; at no point did the poster acknowledge that this woman is obviously very funny! The post was eventually removed by the subreddit’s moderators as potentially fake, but not before a screenshot of it went viral on Twitter and dozens of outlets circulated the story with headlines like “Girl Gets Sweet, Fiery Revenge on Ex With ‘Game of Thrones’ Spoilers.”
One of the planet’s most dramatic extinctions was caused in part by ocean acidification, which has become a problem in our own era.
The worst day in the history of life on Earth, so far, happened almost exactly 66 million years ago, when an asteroid roughly the size of Manhattan slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula.
You may know the story. The asteroid—which arrived, probably, in June or July—immediately drilled a 20-mile hole into the planet’s surface, vaporizing bedrock and spewing it halfway to the moon. The planet shuddered with magnitude-12 earthquakes, loosing tsunamis across the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the ejected debris condensed in orbit and plunged back to Earth as searing spheres of molten glass, which torched the land and turned forests into firestorms. Other debris remained high in space, where it blocked the sun’s rays and began to chill the surface of the planet.
A man-made blaze on a remote Utah mountainside could provide valuable insights into the behavior of the powerful wildfires growing more and more common out West.
Sometime later this month or in early November, if the weather cooperates, the U.S. Forest Service will fly a pair of fire-spitting helicopters over a remote mountain in southern Utah and set the forest ablaze.
While the helicopters are pelting burning liquid fuel at the treetops, dozens of firefighters will be providing support on the ground, using drip torches and flamethrowers to create a towering wall of flame that will stretch from the forest floor to the sky. As the heat builds and the blaze roars across spruce- and fir-stippled canopies, a small army of scientists will launch weather balloons and drones, drive radar- and LIDAR-equipped trucks around the perimeter, fly specialized research planes overhead, and gather data on fire-hardened GoPro cameras to analyze the inferno from start to finish.
Ambassador Taylor delivered a 15-page opening statement that detailed the “confusing and unusual arrangement” involving the nongovernment employee Rudy Giuliani’s “irregular” role in making aid to Ukraine conditioned on the promise to investigate the family of one of President Donald Trump’s political rivals, Joe Biden. Taylor testified that Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had ordered an Office of Management and Budget staff member to “hold security assistance to Ukraine,” even though the Defense Department had determined that the “assistance was effective and should be resumed.”
The short-term costs have been brutal, but the longer-term ones could be far more significant.
Today Donald Trump stood in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room before a portrait of George Washington, who 223 years ago warned of the danger of foreign entanglements, and declared the United States disentangled from the Middle East—a region America’s leaders have for decades considered vital to national security.
Yet ever since he announced the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria this month, giving way to a brutal Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces there, Trump has witnessed the grave consequences of this disengagement. Just in the short term, recent days have brought the slaughter and mass displacement of Kurds, whom the United States relied on to cripple the Islamic State in Syria; the collective shudder of U.S. allies around the world at America’s rank betrayal of its battlefield partners; and the springing loose of at least 100 ISIS fighters from prisons operated by overwhelmed Kurdish-led militias.
How a question about vaccines made it into a hearing about cryptocurrency
“Are you 100 percent confident that vaccines pose no injury to any person on this planet?”
That was a real question asked today by Bill Posey, a congressman representing Florida’s Eighth District, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook, for the record, is not a pharmaceutical company. Zuckerberg is not a medical professional. There are no indications that Libra, the proposed cryptocurrency that was supposedly the object of the House subcommittee hearing during which this exchange took place, will require its users to submit their vaccination records.
Posey’s monologue—he claimed to “support vaccinations,” but was also “disappointed Facebook would consider interfering with free speech with vaccinations”—was shocking in not only its content, but also its context. Posey was complaining about changes Facebook announced in March: that it would reject ads that include misinformation about vaccines and stop recommending groups and pages that spread such misinformation. Today’s hearing was about whether, in starting a cryptocurrency, Facebook might destabilize the global financial system.