Highlights From the Aspen Ideas Festival
Video excerpts from six days of debate and discussion
Video excerpts from six days of debate and discussion
A whistle-blower complaint raises the possibility that President Trump has betrayed the duties of his office.
On the 20th of July 1787, Gouverneur Morris rose inside the stiflingly hot Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, to explain why he had changed his mind and now favored including a power of impeachment in the constitutional text.
Until that point, he and others had feared that an impeachment power would leave the president too dependent on Congress. He had thought that the prospect of reelection defeat would offer a sufficient control on presidential wrongdoing.
But the arguments of other delegates had convinced him—and particularly an example from then-recent British history. A century earlier, Great Britain had been ruled by a king named Charles II. King Charles was the son of Charles I, the king whose head was cut off during the English Civil War. Restored to the throne, Charles II learned to tiptoe carefully around his dangerous subjects. But there was a problem: Charles wanted more money than Parliament willingly offered him. His solution? He reached out to an old friend and patron: the king of France, Louis XIV.
A lot rides on how parents present the activity to their kids.
They can be identified by their independent-bookstore tote bags, their “Book Lover” mugs, or—most reliably—by the bound, printed stacks of paper they flip through on their lap. They are, for lack of a more specific term, readers.
Joining their tribe seems simple enough: Get a book, read it, and voilà! You’re a reader—no tote bag necessary. But behind that simple process is a question of motivation—of why some people grow up to derive great pleasure from reading, while others don’t. That why is consequential—leisure reading has been linked to a range of good academic and professional outcomes—as well as difficult to fully explain. But a chief factor seems to be the household one is born into, and the culture of reading that parents create within it.
The second known visitor to our cosmic neighborhood from another star is making quite an entrance.
No one knows where it came from, but it’s here now. And the chase is on.
Astronomers around the world are monitoring an interstellar comet hurtling through the solar system, known for the moment as C/2019 Q4. It’s the second time in less than two years that they’ve seen an object from another star swing through our cosmic neighborhood. The first time around, the discovery kicked off a worldwide sprint to inspect the object before it got away. It was mysterious enough that some astronomers even began to consider whether it was dispatched by an advanced alien civilization.
This second interstellar object was spotted in late August by Gennady Borisov, an amateur astronomer in Crimea. Borisov has a reputation for catching never-before-seen comets with his telescopes, but they’re from around here; like everything else in the solar system—the planets, the moons, a sea of asteroids—they trace an orbit around the sun. And over the past few weeks, it’s become very clear that this comet does not.
Caught between a brutal meritocracy and a radical new progressivism, a parent tries to do right by his children while navigating New York City’s schools.
To be a parent is to be compromised. You pledge allegiance to justice for all, you swear that private attachments can rhyme with the public good, but when the choice comes down to your child or an abstraction—even the well-being of children you don’t know—you’ll betray your principles to the fierce unfairness of love. Then life takes revenge on the conceit that your child’s fate lies in your hands at all. The organized pathologies of adults, including yours—sometimes known as politics—find a way to infect the world of children. Only they can save themselves.
Our son underwent his first school interview soon after turning 2. He’d been using words for about a year. An admissions officer at a private school with brand-new, beautifully and sustainably constructed art and dance studios gave him a piece of paper and crayons. While she questioned my wife and me about our work, our son drew a yellow circle over a green squiggle.
As a real-estate developer, he repeatedly argued that building adequate housing requires federal subsidies. As president, he’s forgotten that.
Donald Trump has long understood that he can leverage homelessness to motivate people. In the early 1980s, the developer was desperate to get tenants out of a building he owned in Manhattan so that he could tear it down and build a new one. The tenants were not obliging, so Trump tried a series of moves to force them to vacate—including offering to house homeless New Yorkers in the building, hoping revulsion would scare the tenants out.
Now, as president, Trump is once again turning to the fear of the homeless as a tool. The administration has begun threatening some sort of major action on homelessness, likely in California. It’s not clear what actions the administration might pursue, nor how federal authority would interact with local government. One reported idea is to demolish Los Angeles’s famed Skid Row. A report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers on Monday focused on the use of policing, apparently a gesture at the idea of rounding homeless people up.
The results yielded no clear path to a governing coalition, but represented a rejection of two dangerous ideas.
Israel’s second election of 2019 managed to produce both high drama and anticlimax. The top-line result: There is no clear winner. Neither the right-wing bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the center-left bloc led by former military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, commanded a majority of the 120 seats in the 22nd Knesset. But there was still a loser of sorts: Netanyahu.
The one thing that was clear, following the election, was that the results signal a dramatic shift in policy. Israel had stepped all the way to the brink on two fundamental issues, and it has now taken a half step back. These results scuttle Netanyahu’s plans to officially apply Israeli law to parts of the West Bank, annexing the Jordan Valley, and to curtail the Israeli Supreme Court’s powers in order to secure himself immunity from prosecution on corruption charges. Both issues would have had serious ramifications, the former for the possibility of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future, and the latter for the health of Israeli democracy. Tuesday’s results will not produce peace nor resolve Israel’s internal challenges, but they stave off those prospects, at least for the moment.
The president’s move to revoke California’s authority to set car-emission standards is part of a broader push to stymie the states that voted against him.
Across a growing number of issues, from immigration to taxes to health care, President Donald Trump is harnessing federal power to constrain—and even punish—the blue states outside of his political coalition.
One recent move escalated that offensive: Yesterday Trump tweeted that the Environmental Protection Agency will revoke a federal waiver that California received from former President Barack Obama to set its own standards for reducing vehicle emissions, a key contributor to climate change. No previous president has attempted to revoke a waiver granted to California since the state was granted the unique authority to set its own emission rules under the Clean Air Act of 1970. (The EPA is expected to officially announce the decision this morning.)
The candidates hate them. The campaigns hate them. The press hates them. For once in American politics, there’s a consensus.
Just as the final question was being asked at the most recent Democratic debate, a 2020 campaign manager walked through the spin room, full of reporters trying to figure out what smart analysis to summon, and worked up all the fake excitement of a parent en route to a children’s birthday party: “Just 35 days until the next debate!”
That was one week ago. But for all the news coverage, the debate has more or less already been forgotten—even by those who were paying the closest attention in the first place. The campaigns and the press have moved on. And any voters who actually watched all three hours don’t have much more than a few one-liners and minor clashes to point to as significant moments.
Long-hidden documents show the school’s blueprint for slowing integration during the civil-rights era.
In the summer of 1955, administrators at the University of Texas at Austin had a problem: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, handed down the previous year, required educational institutions to integrate their classrooms. But the regents overseeing the state university system’s flagship campus, the old alumni who formed the donor base, and the segregationist political forces that pulled the purse strings were all determined to find ways to keep African Americans from stepping foot on campus.
UT had no conspicuous blocking-the-schoolhouse-door moment. A series of documents in the UT archives, many of them marked confidential, suggests that administration officials took a subtler approach: They adopted a selective admissions policy based around standardized testing, which they knew would suppress the number of African American students they were forced to admit.
The people of pre-colonial Puerto Rico did not disappear entirely—a new study shows that the island’s residents still carry bits of their DNA.
In the 15th century, when Europeans first reached the island now named Puerto Rico, it was home to between 30,000 and 70,000 people, sometimes known collectively as Taíno. They came from various ethnic groups descended from several waves of ancestors who came to the island in succession, beginning as early as 3,000 B.C. But a century after the colonizers arrived, official traces of these indigenous peoples were all but impossible to find.
Under a regime of forced relocations, starvation, disease, and slavery, their numbers plummeted. At the same time, colonial officials elided their existence, removing them as a distinct group from the census and recategorizing many—from Christian converts to wives of colonists—as Spanish or “other.”
Physical-education programs were designed to encourage health and fitness, but they may be counterproductive.
A reporter follows a lead about a mysterious office building filled with children.
The U.S. government dispossessed 1 million black families of their farms. This is one family’s story.