Aggregating and archiving news from both sides of the aisle.
Preview: The Nasdaq suffered its steepest weekly drop since March 2020, as investors turn their attention to quarterly results from Big Tech.
Preview: FTC chief Lina Khan said in an exclusive interview it takes "courage" to fight Big Tech, as companies haven't slowed down their acquisition pace on their own.
Preview: The Federal Reserve's meeting trumps everything else for markets in the week ahead, as investors await any new clues on its plans to raise interest rates.
Preview: Bitcoin was trading at around $35,000, about half of its value since hitting its November high.
Preview: Detroit’s automakers have brought a surprisingly conservative financial strategy to making them America’s next electric vehicles of choice.
Preview: Unless President Biden can turn this ongoing Ukrainian crisis into opportunity, the setback for Europe and the world could be generational.
Preview: With the emergence of omicron, the future course of the pandemic is unclear as experts struggle to understand how new variants emerge.
Preview: Icahn Capital’s Brett Icahn and Gary Hu have joined the board of Dana Inc. The firm is no stranger to the automotive market.
Preview: With rates on the rise and bond prices falling, one investor says the old 60/40 adage just won't cut it anymore.
Preview: Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says the advice Jeff Bezos gave him when he got the top job at the social platform would also serve first-time CEO Parag Agrawal as he leads Twitter.
Preview: NATO members Romania and Bulgaria slammed Russia's demand to remove alliance troops from both countries as "unacceptable," with each arguing that the Kremlin has no right to interfere in the foreign policy decisions of other sovereign states.
Preview: Nobody knows for sure exactly what Vladimir Putin is doing with around 100,000 Russian troops parked near the Russia-Ukraine border, but it's making the US and Europe extremely nervous.
Preview: About 500 yards away from Russian-backed separatists, a group of Ukrainian soldiers waits for a fight it's sure is coming.
Preview: CNN's Jim Acosta talks to Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) about a report from the British government that it has information the Russian government is planning to "install a pro-Russian leader" in Ukraine.
Preview: The first US shipment of recently directed security assistance has arrived in Ukraine, the US Embassy in Kyiv tweeted Friday night.
Preview: Is Russian President Vladimir Putin planning to invade Ukraine, potentially launching a new war in Europe? The answer remains elusive after a week of intensive diplomacy, with consecutive meetings between Russian officials and US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe envoys.
Preview: Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are at their highest in years, with a Russian troop build-up near the two nations' borders spurring fears that Moscow could launch an invasion.
Preview: • Former Trump campaign adviser acknowledges being part of 2020 'alternate electors' plot • Video: John King rebukes Trump for comments during Fox interview
Preview: • Covid Q&A: How to get free face masks • FDA considers limiting authorization of certain monoclonal antibody treatments
Preview: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday revealed she has canceled her wedding as the country continues to curb a new wave of Omicron cases.
Preview: After a less than thrilling Wild Card Weekend, the divisional playoff matchups needed to live up to the hype. With two games in the books, to say that the weekend is off to a good start would be the understatement of the year. Cincinnati Bengals 19 Tennessee Titans 16 Even with the return of all-pro ...
Preview: Hope has been an essential part of the March for Life since the first march in 1974, but rarely has that hope seemed so palpable or concrete as it does now. That’s because this year, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the landmark abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could ...
Preview: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faced widespread backlash across the political spectrum late this week for telling people to go drink and take kickboxing classes in response to Democrats having a bad week politically. Psaki made the remarks during an interview on ABC’s “The View” where she gave advice for people who were mad ...
Preview: On Saturday, the Arizona Democratic Party executive committee voted to censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) following her defense of the Senate filibuster. In a statement regarding the censure, state party chair Raquel Terán condemned Sinema. “I want to be clear, the Arizona Democratic Party is a diverse coalition with plenty of room for policy disagreements,” ...
Preview: Less than 24 hours after President Biden told RealClearPolitics – and a national TV audience – he was not prepared to say that the coming midterm elections would be legitimate, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was saying the exact opposite Thursday during television interviews, on Twitter and twice to reporters in the briefing room. ...
Preview: Comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci and the medical establishment during an interview last week over their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m over Covid,” Maher said. “I was never scared of it. I was always scared of the reaction to it, and as this has ...
Preview: Twitter users blasted Bloomberg News after the outlet posted an embarrassing headline comparing the possibility of a universal coronavirus vaccine to the One Ring from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary fantasy trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.” Writing under the heading, “One Shot To Rule Them All,” Bloomberg editor Mark Gongloff summarized an opinion piece on the ...
Preview: Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), known for his sense of humor, mocked President Joe Biden during a Fox News interview this week, saying that if aliens arrived and demanded to be taken to America’s leader, it would be a moment of embarrassment. “The Biden administration has mismanaged COVID, it has mismanaged inflation, it has mismanaged the ...
Preview: During a call with reporters on Friday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), a leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine “next month,” and that China could begin to invade Taiwan after the February Winter Olympics, which are being held in Beijing. “My prediction is that you’re going to see Russia ...
Preview: Comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” ripped people on his own side of the aisle during his show on Friday for claiming that they are “the people of science,” when, in reality, “a lot of what they do has nothing to do with science.” Maher made the remarks during a ...
Preview: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... (Top headline, 1st story, link) Related stories: Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: Feds monitor... (Top headline, 2nd story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: 39% Americans boosted... (Top headline, 3rd story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... (Top headline, 4th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... (Top headline, 5th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... (Top headline, 6th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: Florida wave worse than data shows? (Top headline, 7th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... (Top headline, 8th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? China brings back anal swab... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: China brings back anal swab... (Top headline, 9th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: Kiribati was one of last virus-free places. Now under lockdown... (Top headline, 10th story, link) Related stories: Anti-vax activists rally in DC... Feds monitor... 39% Americans boosted... Judge blocks jab rule for govt workers... As Pills Roll Out, Focus on Resistance Danger... More patients hospitalized with Covid, not for... Florida wave worse than data shows? High number of mutations render antibodies ineffective... China brings back anal swab... Passport protests in Europe draw thousands of people...
Preview: One Pennsylvania school board member is sending a message message to parents: “No, I don't work for you.”
Preview: Michigan State University allowed basketball games to continue at 100% attendance capacity while shutting down in-person learning for nearly the entire month of January.
Preview: A University of Washington department language guide is calling everyday words used by Americans “problematic.”
Preview: A quadruple shooting in Baltimore on Wednesday left three people dead, including a Safe Streets worker.
Preview: Two New York City police officers were shot in a Harlem gunfight Friday night — one fatally and one critically wounded — days after a 16-year-old boy allegedly wounded another officer in the Bronx, according to police sources.
Preview: A Texas Department of Public Safety officer has died after a “tragic accident” happened while conducting “tactical operations” near the United States and Mexico border on Friday.
Preview: After making political hay by attacking the NYPD and pushing to defund the department – some of the city’s most vocal progressive Democrats are praising cops in the wake of Friday night’s tragic police shooting
Preview: A lawsuit from Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, alleges that graphic photos of her husband and daughter were shared on at least 28 different LA County Sheriff's Department devices.
Preview: A Chicago alderman is asking the Chicago Public Schools to explain a discrepancy in their coronavirus dashboard amid alleged discrepancies in the data provided
Preview: A two-alarm fire at a residential building at 850 Intervale Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York City on Tuesday has left eight people injured and at least one dead, according to local authorities. Several days after the incident, on Saturday, video circulated on social media showing the moment of the explosion.
Preview: Blocked punt by 49ers ties game with Packers late in the fourth quarter ESPN Another disappointing Aaron Rodgers playoff loss, as Packers are shocked by 49ers Yahoo Sports 2021 NFL playoffs: What we learned from 49ers' win over Packers in Divisional Round NFL.com Saving their worst for last, top-seeded Packers' season lands with a thud in loss to 49ers Madison.com Jimmy Garoppolo is the Key to 49ers Victory 49ers Webzone View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: UK foreign office says Kremlin is planning to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine CNNView Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: LAUSD to prohibit cloth face masks for students starting Monday KTLA Los Angeles Across the region's schools, a wildly varied treatment of masks The Washington Post LAUSD students must wear non-cloth masks starting Monday Los Angeles Times Los Angeles school district to require students to wear 'non-cloth masks with a nose wire' | TheHill The Hill Sacramento City Unified to give every student 5 N95 or KF94 masks KTXL FOX 40 Sacramento View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: President Biden offers prayers for slain, injured NYPD Officers Jason Rivera, Wilbert Mora New York Post 1 NYPD Officer Killed, 1 Severely Injured in Harlem Shooting Bloomberg Quicktake: Now Defund police backers sing a different tune after rookie cop is slain Fox News They served us all: NYPD Officer Jason Rivera is dead and his partner Wilbert Mora is in critical condition because of an angry man with a stolen gun New York Daily News Investigators Piecing Together Information About Deadly Harlem Shooting Suspect Lashawn McNeil CBS New York View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Arizona Democratic Party formally censures Sinema Reuters Arizona Democratic Party censures Sen. Sinema after collapse of voting-rights bill 12 News Arizona Democratic Party censures Kyrsten Sinema for protecting filibuster Fox News Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has a headache and it has a name: Rep. Ruben Gallego The Arizona Republic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema really should become an independent now The Arizona Republic View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Truck carrying 100 monkeys crashes in Pennsylvania New York Daily News All monkeys accounted for after trailer crashes in Pennsylvania CNN Monkeys On The Loose In Pennsylvania After Truck Crash TODAY UPDATE Police: One monkey still missing following crash Sunbury Daily Item All monkeys accounted for after tractor-trailer crash: Police PennLive View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Wildfire near Big Sur forces evacuations, shuts down Highway 1 KCRA Sacramento Wildfire Along California's Big Sur Coast Burns 1050 Acres, 20% contained NBC Bay Area Wildfire along California's Big Sur forces evacuations Yahoo News Wildfire burns near California's Highway 1, prompting evacuations CNN California wildfire shuts down highways, forces area residents to evacuate 12NewsNow View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Angry outbursts and cool determination: Inside the synagogue attacker's 18-day journey to terror The Washington Post As F.B.I. Breached Texas Synagogue, Hostages Were Dashing for Exit The New York Times Local Jewish leader reflects on synagogue standoff that threatened his friend's life KPBS Public Media After harrowing hostage ordeal, Colleyville rabbi shows us how to live with compassion Fort Worth Star-Telegram Texas synagogue attack leads to calls for more federal security funding Deseret News View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Suzanne Morphew mystery: Was a missing Colorado mother murdered or abducted? CBS News Seven shocking details in Suzanne Morphew murder case from husband Barry’s chipmunk alibi to spy pen to c... The US Sun 1/21/22 On the Docket: Barry Morphew Accused of Killing Missing Wife Court TV '48 Hours' To Air Episode About Suzanne Morphew Murder Case CBS Denver Did accused husband use chipmunks as his alibi for murder? CBS News View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: 73-Year-Old Former 911 Dispatcher Helps Police Catch Scammer: 'I Usually Hang Up' Newsweek 'Bored Grandma' OUTPLAYS Phone Scammer, Watches Cops Tackle Suspect NBC New York New York grandmother tricks would-be scammer in trap captured on video Fox News Elderly scam: Scammer's arrest caught on video after he was outwitted by 73-year-old Long Island woman WABC-TV A 73-year-old New York grandmother outsmarted scammers who pretended to be her grandson and said he needed $8,000 to be bailed out of jail Yahoo! Voices View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Former President Donald Trump slammed the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol insurrection after it asking his daughter Ivanka Trump to sit for an interview."It's a very unfair situation for my children. Ver...
Preview: Senate Democrats say they share President Biden's concern that the results of the 2022 midterm elections may not be legitimate because of restrictive voting laws passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures and the empower...
Preview: Bill Maher is pushing back against blindly following the advice of Anthony Fauci and other doctors amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "Don't sit there in your white coat and tell me 'just do what we say.' ""Tha...
Preview: The executive board of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) censured Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) after she and fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined their 50 Republican colleagues this week to block Demo...
Preview: Momentum is growing for making changes to an archaic election law after former President Trump and his allies tried to overturn the Electoral College results.Multiple groups on Capitol Hill are working on reforms t...
Preview: Police arrested a Georgia pastor and charged him with false imprisonment after officials allegedly found eight people locked inside his basement.The pastor has disputed the charges....
Preview: Lawmakers and advocates who have pushed for President Biden to act on student loan forgiveness were left frustrated and disappointed this week when he didn't answer a reporter's question on the issue.Biden was aske...
Preview: "This will kill kids," Chasten Buttigieg wrote Thursday on Twitter.
Preview: Candy is about to get more "inclusive," with the maker of M&M's announcing its famed characters are getting modern makeovers and will have more "nuanced personalities."Mars, Incorporated, the company behind the...
Preview: A downtick in COVID-19 cases is raising hopes that the omicron wave has peaked in the United States.To be sure, new case numbers remain high and hospitals are still overwhelmed in many areas. But, especially in the...
Preview: "Tax us, the rich, and tax us now," said the letter. Otherwise, there will be "pitchforks" over the injustice, they warn.
Preview: All 100 of the cynomolgus macaque monkeys have been accounted for, but three were euthanized.
Preview: A coastal wildfire in California, called the Colorado Fire, prompted evacuations near Big Sur.
Preview: “The University of Rhode Island has the ... responsibility to sustain ... American democracy by inspiring and modeling good citizenship,” said the college president.
Preview: The trial for Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng -- the three former Minneapolis officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights -- begins Monday.
Preview: Shane McInerney allegedly also threw a can that hit another passenger on a Delta flight from Dublin to New York earlier this month.
Preview: A New York City police officer was killed and another critically wounded Friday night, making four officers shot in the city in as many days.
Preview: Whether it’s a one-pound chocolate lobster, a booby-shaped pillow or a baloney face mask, your Valentine will sure get a “heart on” for all these products.
Preview: The league will continue symptom-based testing and screening for symptoms.
Preview: The Kremlin is keeping the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst security crisis to emerge between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Preview: Money and investing stories popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week.
Preview: ‘He thinks that because he is the working spouse, and has made all the money over the years, he should own 100% of his share of the business.’
Preview: Get ready for the action drama 'Reacher,' a new season of 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' and much more
Preview: Many offset programs are based on dubious assumptions and can actually worsen the climate problem. MIT Sloan's John Sterman outlines a more effective strategy.
Preview: The Fed should be held to account for how badly it is doing on the basic task of protecting the financial system.
Preview: Americans are wondering what's amiss with Wall Street after steep declines in stocks and a surge in bond yields in recent weeks. Here's how to think about it.
Preview: The symbolic measure known as the Doomsday Clock continues to hover at 100 seconds to midnight, unmoved from last year and 2020, when COVID-19 first spread.
Preview: 'He only lived in the house for the first four years.'
Preview: The president faces a number of challenges, including high inflation and an upheaval in investing markets, before midterm elections later this year.
Preview: 'There’s going to be plenty of people I talk to who are going to be very upset,' one tax preparer said.
Preview: Manchin's and Sinema’s votes to preserve the filibuster make them knowingly complicit with the GOP’s vote rigging.
Preview: With the Supreme Court's approval rating at a new low, Justice Clarence Thomas last fall defended the court against the growing criticism that it has become too politicized. Meanwhile, Thomas is married to someone who is extremely politically active on the far right--Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, an attorney and conservative activist. Legal expert Elie Mystal joins Joy Reid with his analysis.
Preview: Former Trump campaign strategic adviser Boris Epshteyn joins MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber to discuss the failed MAGA plot to overturn the presidential election, the House Select Committee’s probe into the insurrection, and the Trump campaign’s fake electors plot. When Melber pressed Epshteyn over reports regarding the fraudulent electors plot, Epshteyn admitted the Trump campaign's basic plan but insisted those involved were "alternate electors."
Preview: The court is allowing Texas to delay challenges to its abortion law until the court erases abortion rights from the Constitution.
Preview: Donald Trump sent every House Republican a conspiratorial book about his defeat as part of a pitiful lobbying campaign.
Preview: The draft of a never-issued order that would have ordered that voting machines and other election equipment be seized after Donald Trump's failure to win reelection was turned over to the January 6th Committee's investigation by the National Archives.
Preview: Retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul discuss with Nicolle Wallace the latest meeting between top diplomats from U.S. and Russia amid the growing tensions in Ukraine
Preview: The Justice Department has charged a Texas man with issuing election-related death threats to government officials in Georgia following Donald Trump's 2020 election loss.
Preview: A draft order prepared for Donald Trump would've authorized the secretary of defense to send National Guard troops to seize voting machines.
Preview: The Florida Senate Education Committee approved a bill, endorsed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that targets critical race theory and would effectively codify white fragility into law.
Preview: After 20-plus years as an afterthought, the Bills have transformed, in what feels like an instant, from a feel-good underdog story to having a lot to lose Sunday when they visit the Chiefs in the AFC divisional playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Preview: University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas continued to dominate the competition Saturday, winning two races in a meet against Ivy League rival Harvard University.
Preview: The Islanders have tried five different players on the line alongside Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee in their last four games.
Preview: In a heartfelt video message, then-high school student Jason Rivera urged younger students to work hard or they would make it "nowhere" in life.
Preview: Asked what qualities are needed to become the leader of an NBA team, Knicks forward RJ Barrett deferred Saturday to more established players in the league. “You might want to ask Chris Paul or Bron [LeBron James] or something like that,” Barrett replied. Still, the 21-year-old Barrett acknowledged his desire to emerge as a leader...
Preview: The vigil came after a rookie Officer Jason Rivera was killed and his partner Officer Wilbert Mora was critically injured when they were shot after responding to a domestic incident.
Preview: GREEN BAY, Wis. — Robbie Gould continued his playoff perfection and moved the San Francisco 49ers one step away from their second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons with a 45-yard field goal as time expired for a 13-10 upset of Green Bay on Saturday night. On a field littered with snow flurries, Gould’s kick...
Preview: Before Officer Jason Rivera was slain and Officer Wilbert Mora was critically injured by Lashawn McNeil's .45 Glock, police had little indication that they were walking into an ambush.
Preview: The Bengals’ resurgence this season has been led by offensive stars Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. On Saturday, however, they were merely the supporting actors for a Cincinnati defense coached by a Staten Island native and featuring a lot of players most fans have never heard of.
Preview: All 14 of Mississippi’s black, state senators refused to vote on a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory in the state's public schools, walking out in protest instead.
Preview: In a highly unusual public statement, backed by U.S. officials, London named the putative head of a potential puppet government but few other details.
Preview: Ukraine has initiated a defensive strategy for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, one of the most radioactive places on Earth, which lies on the shortest path between Russia and Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Preview: From Beijing’s unexpected bid through the coronavirus pandemic, China has managed to fulfill its promises and cow its critics.
Preview: The latest deadly episode to rattle the city began with a routine domestic disturbance call and ended with one officer dead and another in critical condition.
Preview: The Emerald Isle has eased restrictions ahead of the March holiday. The United States expanded the use of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that had previously only been used in hospitals.
Preview: The White House is emphasizing that inflation is worldwide. Economists say that’s true — but stimulus-spurred consumer buying is also to blame.
Preview: The 49ers defeated the Packers, 13-10, and Cincinnati beat Tennessee, 19-16, to advance to the conference championships. Catch up on the latest.
Preview: When Buffalo plays Kansas City in their N.F.L. divisional playoff game, Jessica Pegula, whose parents own the Bills, hopes both she and the football team keep winning.
Preview: The run-pass option and screen-based offenses currently in favor in the N.F.L. rely on receivers who can throw blocks for their teammates.
Preview: The eight-and-a-half minute tale of sexual awakening features drums by the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg and vocals from Ellen Foley, who help recount how the unlikely song came together.
Preview: The censure has no practical effect but reflects how the first-term senator is increasingly distancing herself from fellow Democrats.
Preview: The zombie was first a victim of a voodoo spell, then a reanimated body, and finally a thought experiment to consider when something is conscious.
Preview: Amelia King later apologized and said she never intended to make a threat but the school board still said it would increase security in schools.
Preview: Living right now is an exercise in confusion.
Preview: Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence the Belarus-born businessman to between three and four years in prison.
Preview: And my family gets a free preview through the window each day.
Preview: How the Biden administration’s high-stakes diplomacy to avoid a crisis in Ukraine is going.
Preview: When Lorne Michaels retires, the show will need a new guiding light, or three.
Preview: It was another week of mostly meaningless political rifts.
Preview: Slate Money talks Peter Goodman’s book Davos Man, Microsoft buying Activision, and the 5G fiasco.
Preview: From Bixler v. Superior Court, decided Wednesday by the California Court of Appeal (Justices Laurence Rubin, Carl Moor, and Lamar Baker): Petitioners … are former members of the Church of Scientology who reported to the police that another Church member [Daniel Masterson] had raped them. They allege that, in retaliation for their reports, the Church…
Preview: Making booze to-go rules permanent is the right policy choice, no matter what entrenched interests claim.
Preview: I am grateful I have not spent the last two dreadful years on Twitter.
Preview: Media elites ignore the heartland-themed show, and the real issues behind it, at their own peril.
Preview: 1/22/1890: Hans v. State of Louisiana argued.
Preview: "A future of bloodless global discipline is a chilling thing."
Preview: "It is the combination of these measures [vaccination, masking, quarantining, contract tracing, social distancing, and increased building ventilation] that make them effective and, without any one of them, individuals with disabilities ... are at increased risk of contracting the virus and severe illness or death."
Preview: Not only did Judge VanDyke write a majority opinion, he wrote a draft fauxpinion reversing himself!
Preview: "Plaintiffs' position if accepted, would essentially graft the recommendations of the CDC into the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. And as a practical matter, elevating CDC recommendations to the level of law would serve to take many decisions relating to health policy and directly impacting citizens out of the hands of their elected representatives and put them into the hands of unknown and unanswerable CDC decisionmakers and unelected and unanswerable federal judges."
Preview: Federal judge issues a strongly worded opinion on Florida's conflict of interest policy
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Preview: The Packers looked to be in position to head to the NFC championship game for the third consecutive year until a special teams misstep proved deadly.
Preview: About 90 shipping containers a day are plundered from trains in Los Angeles. The old Western-styled crime is exposing a weakness in the supply chain.
Preview: A winter storm brought a miserable mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic.
Preview: Business as usual won't be enough to combat the next public health crisis, experts say. The U.S. must tackle long-standing health problems, too.
Preview: Before he starts to address the 15 players set to become unrestricted free agents March 16, GM Brian Gutekunst must settle the Aaron Rodgers question.
Preview: The court issued an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony ship as a creditor seeks to recover just over $4.6 million.
Preview: Afghans line up as the UN World Food Program (WFP) distributes a critical monthly food ration to 400 families south of Kabul in Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan, on January 17, 2022. | Scott Peterson/Getty Images Isolating the Taliban is pushing millions of Afghans into poverty and starvation. More than five months after the fall of Kabul, the Afghan economy is on the brink of collapse, leaving millions of people at risk of extreme poverty or starvation. One major culprit: the US decision to halt aid to the country and freeze billions in Afghan government funds. The scope of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan is massive: According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “virtually every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty” without massive investment from the international community and a concerted effort to rebuild the nation’s economy. Guterres spoke to reporters regarding the scale of the crisis during last week’s launch of the UN’s funding drive for Afghanistan — the largest-ever fundraising appeal for a single country. The organization is requesting more than $5 billion in aid to help the Afghan people, both inside the country and in refugee camps in bordering nations like Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Prior to the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Afghan economy relied heavily on foreign aid; after the Taliban takeover, that influx of cash ceased. Under Taliban rule, unemployment is rampant and banks operate intermittently, with people able to withdraw no more than $100 in a month. On top of that, the US froze much of the $9.4 billion in Afghan currency reserves in Afghanistan’s central bank in August — a move which has functionally cut the country off from many foreign banks and left the Central Bank of Afghanistan unable to access its reserves and shore up the country’s cash flow. Now, much of the country is facing poverty and starvation: In December, the World Food Program (WFP) found that 98 percent of Afghans aren’t getting enough to eat, and Guterres warned this month that “we are in a race against time to help the Afghan people.” The UN made the largest ever humanitarian appeal for a single country. The money will go directly into the pockets of “nurses and health officials in the field in #Afghanistan ” so that these services can continue, not as support for State structures. https://t.co/itdxTbTIgc pic.twitter.com/ulFggdLuys — UN News (@UN_News_Centre) January 11, 2022 Specifically, Afghanistan’s economic collapse means many people, including some members of the Taliban, can’t afford to buy food. In the aftermath of the US withdrawal, many Afghans working as interpreters, aid workers, prosecutors, professors, and journalists suddenly lost their positions and their incomes, and many have been forced into hiding, further hampering their ability to provide even the most basic necessities — blankets, food, fuel, and medicine — for their families. Freezing temperatures are also forcing families to make the critical choice between food to sustain their families and fuel to keep them warm in the bitter winter months. “Everywhere we go, we find thousands more people who need help,” said Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, told the Washington Post earlier this month. “They haven’t been driven from their homes, but they have lost their jobs, they have no savings, and their life systems are in collapse. They are not on our lists, but they come and wait outside the distribution sites, saying, ‘What about us?’” “Everything is connected. The government has collapsed, people have no salaries, and the economy has gone to zero,” Shahwali Khan, a vendor in Kabul, told the Post. “People can’t afford to buy now, and we can’t afford to sell.” US policy is helping drive Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis Many of Afghanistan’s current problems are intimately connected to the US withdrawal from the country last year, and the Taliban’s ensuing takeover of the central government. Since then, US sanctions and an abrupt end to international aid have wrecked Afghanistan’s economy and sent it spiraling into crisis. The US and the UN have made some concessions to allow humanitarian aid to operate outside the auspices of the Taliban; the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) granted some licenses to aid groups to operate in Afghanistan without running afoul of of financial restrictions on certain individuals and institutions in the country. But, as experts have said, it’s not nearly enough to bring the Afghan people anywhere close to the needed aid, and regardless of the OFAC licenses, the Afghan banking system is still essentially held hostage by US sanctions against the Taliban. “Sanctions are intended to have a chilling effect, in that sanctions will always go beyond the face of the text,” Adam Weinstein, a research fellow with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told the Intercept in December. Banks and businesses don’t want to risk dealing in places or sectors with economic restrictions from the US, for fear that they’ll violate a prohibition and be subject to sanctions themselves, Weinstein explained. To that end, more than 40 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to President Joe Biden last month, urging him to release the frozen currency reserves, which belong to the Central Bank of Afghanistan and the Afghan people. “No increase in food and medical aid can compensate for the macroeconomic harm of soaring prices of basic commodities, a banking collapse, a balance-of-payments crisis, a freeze on civil servants’ salaries, and other severe consequences that are rippling throughout Afghan society, harming the most vulnerable,” the letter warns. So far, however, no policy shift has been forthcoming. As of earlier this month, the US has pledged an additional $308 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but the Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen. While some aid is getting to Afghans via the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the WFP, those organizations often have stringent requirements regarding who qualifies for aid. In a nation on the brink, many who are in desperate need don’t qualify for aid because they don’t fit the program’s focus area or because they’re not poor enough. And while Afghanistan’s current crisis isn’t wholly caused by external factors — even without sanctions by the US and its allies, the Taliban’s inability to manage the bureaucracy of government would have created issues, as would the pandemic and a severe drought that began in June last year — US actions do play a substantial role. The chilling effect of sanctions is keeping businesses and banks from actually engaging with the economy. As House Democrats pointed out in their letter last month, relatively simple steps — like issuing letters to international businesses assuring them that they are not violating US sanctions — could help alleviate the crisis and shore up the Afghan private sector, but Treasury has yet to do so. “Restoring a minimally functioning public sector and stopping Afghanistan’s economic free-fall will require lifting restrictions on ordinary business and easing the prohibition on assistance to or through the government,” Laurel Miller, director of the International Crisis Group’s Asia program, wrote in a New York Times op-ed this month. “Without that, there’s little hope that humanitarian aid can be more than a palliative.” Humanitarian aid, at least on a large, international scale, doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, either; the UN’s Financial Tracking Service shows less than $29 million of the $4.4 billion needed to keep Afghanistan from disaster has been funded so far. In the meantime, however, the Taliban will hold talks this coming week with Western nations, including Norway, Britain, the US, Italy, France, and Germany, about humanitarian aid. The talks should not be seen as a legitimization of Taliban rule, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed to AFP on Friday, “but we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths echoed that sentiment in his initial call for donations last week, saying that unless the Afghan economy can recover and begin to provide for people, the crisis will only worsen. Without aid, Griffiths said, “next year we’ll be asking for $10 billion.”
Preview: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Joe Manchin, (D-WV), talk with reporters about voting rights in the US Capitol on Thursday, January 20, 2022. | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images Improving the Electoral Count Act isn’t enough to protect voting rights and stop election subversion. While voting rights legislation is pretty much doomed due to Republican opposition and moderate Democrats’ decision to keep the filibuster intact, there’s still hope for a much narrower election reform: changes to the Electoral Count Act (ECA). A bipartisan group of roughly 12 lawmakers, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), is now in talks about possible ECA updates, though it’s unclear if enough Republicans would ultimately sign on to reach the 60-vote threshold any bill needs to pass. Because the law governs how Congress counts presidential election results, reforms could address vulnerabilities that former President Donald Trump tried to exploit last January. These updates, however, wouldn’t bring about the sweeping protections Democrats hoped to institute with the voting rights package that failed this week, and wouldn’t be enough to stop election subversion at the state level. The push to reform the ECA is also indicative of the legislative limits the party faces with the filibuster intact. Because they need GOP support for most bills, Democrats might be able to take some small steps toward their policy goals, but only the ones that Republicans allow. “American democracy faces multiple threats — the possibility of interference with the electoral count is just one of them,” said Alex Tausanovitch, the director of campaign finance and election reform at the Center for American Progress. “Just reforming the Electoral Count Act would be like only locking your back door. There’s a broader set of precautions we should take, particularly when something as fundamental as the democratic process is at stake.” Like Democrats’ push to pass new federal voting rights protections, updates to the ECA are a direct response to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, though they only address one aspect of these efforts. As Congress was certifying election results last January, Trump urged Vice President Mike Pence to throw out certain results, something Pence ultimately declined to do. Modifications of the ECA could make it clear that a vice president is unable to discard election results, and thus unable to overturn an election. In addition, the updated ECA could make it tougher for lawmakers to challenge states’ results, thereby avoiding a situation where a group of lawmakers conspires to nullify valid election results as some Republicans attempted to do in 2021. Although these reforms are critical and worth pursuing, election law experts say they’re no replacement for measures intended to increase voting access and combat attempts at partisan election interference in different states. Because reforms to the ECA would narrowly apply to Congress’s role in presidential elections, they wouldn’t confront state laws that restrict early voting access and vote-by-mail, and they wouldn’t counter state legislatures’ attempts to exert control over local election administration. Collins has said she hopes a bipartisan elections measure could also help strengthen protections for poll workers and election officials who’ve faced growing threats of violence. The limitations of these possible reforms, though, have not escaped notice from some Democratic lawmakers. “I support reforming the Electoral Count Act,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in a floor speech on Wednesday. “That said, reforming the Electoral Count Act will do virtually nothing to address the sweeping voter suppression and election subversion efforts taking place in Georgia, and in states and localities nationwide.” The Electoral Count Act, briefly explained The Electoral Count Act, which was first passed in 1887, lays out how Congress counts each state’s electoral votes in a presidential election, and how lawmakers should respond if states send in competing sets of results. As it works now, Congress receives the presidential election results from each state and has the job of counting and certifying, or finalizing, these results. To do so, Congress gathers the January after the presidential election for a joint session in order to go through each state’s results. As the results are read, lawmakers can contest them as long as one House member and one senator agree to register their objections. If an objection is made, the House and Senate will then each debate the objection and vote on it: For the results to actually be contested, a majority of members in both bodies need to agree to it. Otherwise the objection is dispensed with and the results are counted as is. This provision in the law was particularly relevant last year. In January 2021, House Republicans raised objections about the results in six states, though only their objections toward the Arizona and Pennsylvania results had Senate support. Neither of those objections received a majority of support in either chamber. In the past, lawmakers have raised objections regarding the Georgia results in Trump’s election in 2016 and the Ohio results in former President George W. Bush’s election in 2004. The objections to the 2020 presidential results, however, were unique in the number of states that were contested, and the number of Republicans who supported the effort. In the end, 147 Republicans maintained their objections to the outcome in Pennsylvania or Arizona. During the certification process, the vice president also has what’s typically a ceremonial role that’s detailed in the ECA. Their job is to open each state’s electoral results, present them to Congress and preside over the joint session. Once the outcomes in each state are tallied, the vice president will also announce which candidate received a majority of the electoral votes to win the presidency. In 2021, however, Trump urged Pence to consider overturning the results by rejecting the outcomes in several states. According to Peril, a book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, attorney John Eastman, a member of Trump’s legal team, laid out a plan for how Pence could discard the electoral outcomes in seven states and declare Trump the winner. Pence, however, concluded there was no legal basis for him to do so and refused to follow through on the plan. Changing the ECA would further guarantee that a vice president wouldn’t be able to take such actions. As a Yahoo News report notes, another current shortcoming in the ECA is the leeway it gives states regarding the slates of electors they could send to Congress, potentially giving states the ability to overturn results if their legislatures decide to do so: At the state level, the ECA gives governors enormous power over the slate of electors sent to the Electoral College. As of now, there is room under the law for a state legislature to try to throw out the popular vote in its state by sending a competing slate of electors to Congress. If the governor signs off on that slate, then the law would dictate that those electors are the ones that are counted. Matthew Seligman, a fellow at the Center for Private Law at Yale Law School, has said that the ECA could be updated to more plainly state when electors can be chosen. In addition to pressuring his vice president to disregard the election’s outcome, Trump’s push to contest the 2020 results, coupled with GOP lawmakers’ assertions that there was something amiss about those results, spurred thousands of his supporters to storm the Capitol as the certification process was taking place on January 6, 2021. How lawmakers plan to change the Electoral Count Act Talks about ECA reforms are still in their early stages at the moment, though they have picked up support from both sides of the aisle. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is among those who has signaled an openness to considering them, an indication that there could be sufficient Republican support for a measure to pass the upper chamber. ECA changes could help close certain loopholes that Trump tried to capitalize on during the vote certification process in 2021, several of which the House Administration Committee pointed to in its recommendations for reforms. One of these suggestions would be increasing the threshold of lawmakers needed for an objection to be registered. Instead of only requiring one House member and one senator to raise an objection, committee staff recommends increasing this threshold to one-third of the members in the House and the Senate. Additionally, staff suggests that the vice president only have a very limited role in the process — including opening and presenting the electoral counts, but not presiding over the counting as they have in the past. “There’s a good win there,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) previously told reporters when asked about potential changes. “I mean, my goodness, that’s what caused the insurrection.” But there’s a lot the proposed updates wouldn’t accomplish. Reforms to the ECA wouldn’t address pressure campaigns the former president launched in places like Georgia and Arizona, where he and allies urged election officials to ignore the electoral outcomes. (Trump could face charges for trying to interfere in the Georgia election.) ECA reforms also wouldn’t combat a new Georgia law that enables the state election board to suspend local election officials, or the initial refusal of two Wayne County, Michigan, election canvassers to certify the region’s results in 2020 (both officials ended up reversing course). And it wouldn’t curb audits by states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which have forced partisan reviews of election results that undercut trust in the outcome. “One of the concerns is that states are taking steps to change state processes and authorities for certifying elections,” said Professor Rebecca Green, a co-director of the election law program at William and Mary Law School. “Electoral Count Act reforms would not touch those internal state processes, which are the domain of states and state legislatures.” In addition to the limited role it can play in fighting election subversion, these reforms also offer no new protections for voters in states like Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, which have all recently passed laws intended to restrict access to the ballot by banning things like drive-through voting and shortening the time frame for submitting mail-in ballots. Changes to the ECA “don’t do anything to block the suppression that’s taking place,” said Cliff Albright, a co-founder of the advocacy group Black Voters Matter. “They don’t block the attacks on drop boxes, on vote-by-mail, the criminalizing of people who give out food and water. They don’t block any of that.” There’s another potential issue with the ECA reforms currently under discussion as well. Albright notes that the reforms could actually inadvertently enable election subversion if they make it harder for lawmakers to contest state results should state officials submit partisan results that do not match up with the actual outcome. “Let’s say we have nefarious state officials. If you raise the threshold that you need [for objections], you certainly make it harder to smoke out that kind of nefarious problem with the election officials,” said Hamline University political science professor David Schultz. Changes to the ECA are indicative of the watered-down policies Democrats will have to consider Whether any ECA changes actually materialize is an open question. In the past, Republicans have signaled interest in policies, only for talks to falter when there’s been disagreement on key provisions. In the case of a 2020 and 2021 push for police reform, for example, Republicans expressed interest in a bipartisan compromise, but talks collapsed after members of both parties couldn’t overcome their differences on the issue of qualified immunity. The same dynamic has played out on gun control, which has garnered bipartisan support that’s failed to translate to concrete policies. On the issue of voting rights more specifically, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has said she’d be open to working on a more limited measure that addresses voter protections and has previously voted in favor of advancing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There aren’t yet the 10 necessary Republican votes needed to actually pass a bill on that front yet either. That means the ECA reform may be all Democrats are able to accomplish on elections in the near term, making it an example of how Democrats have to settle, since conservative members of their caucus have voted to preserve the filibuster. Because of Senate rules, Democrats will have to water down their proposals on everything from immigration reform to the minimum wage in order to have a shot of picking up any Republican support. For now, the changes to the ECA seem like the most tenable election reform that lawmakers at the federal level may be able to achieve. Because of the narrow majority they have and the existing Senate rules, Democrats will likely need to make similarly drastic concessions on other priorities if they want to get anything done.
Preview: A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea on January 18. Russia has concentrated an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons near Ukraine. | AP Russia’s invasion threat looms, and there have been no diplomatic breakthroughs yet. “My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” President Joe Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Wednesday press conference. Biden was describing the predicament his counterpart has created for himself in Eastern Europe, as Russia has stationed tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border. Biden added that there is space to work with Russia on a peaceful solution if Putin wants it, but if he escalates, “I think it will hurt him badly.” It was a remarkably blunt — maybe too blunt — assessment of the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine, which is staring down the threat of a possible Russian invasion. The crisis has built and built, lately with renewed signs of Russian aggression, from cyberattacks on Ukrainian government websites to the Kremlin moving troops to neighboring Belarus for joint military exercises. Against this backdrop, diplomatic talks in Geneva between the US and Russia sputtered earlier this month, and renewed efforts between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday produced no big breakthroughs. Blinken said Friday that the two would speak again after the US consults with its allies and responds to a series of demands from Russia. It’s one sign there might still be a way out of the crisis, if not exactly an optimistic one. Some of the big-ticket demands on Russia’s list are nonstarters with US and NATO allies, something Russia also probably knows. For example, Moscow wants guarantees that NATO would not expand eastward, including to Ukraine, and a rolling back of troop deployment to some former Soviet states, which would turn back the clock decades on Europe’s security and geopolitical alignment. These demands are “a Russian attempt, not only to secure his interest in Ukraine, but essentially re-litigate the security architecture in Europe,” said Michael Kofman, research director in the Russia studies program at CNACNA, a research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia. In other words, this is about Ukraine. But Ukraine is also a stage for Russia’s own insecurities about its place in Europe and the world, and how Putin’s legacy is tied up all in that. “For Russia, what it sees as Western encroachment into Ukraine is a very big part of how the West has been weakening Russia, and infringing on a security interest for all of this time,” said Olga Oliker, program director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group. All of this makes it difficult to see a diplomatic way out, especially when 100,000 troops are posted along the Ukrainian border. Russia has denied that it has plans to invade, and few believe Putin has fully made up his mind on what he wants to do. But with all the threats and ultimatums, Putin may still have to do something if he cannot wrest concessions from the West. “In a certain way, [he] has put himself in a corner,” said Natia Seskuria, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “Because he can only do this once.” Diplomacy isn’t totally dead. But it’s not going great. Russia presented the United States with its demands last month. It requested “legally binding security guarantees,” including a stop to eastward NATO expansion, which would exclude Ukraine from ever joining, and that NATO would not deploy troops or conduct military activities in countries that joined the alliance after 1997, which includes Poland and former Soviet states in the Baltics. Kyiv and NATO have grown closer over the last decade-plus, and actively cooperate. But Ukraine is nowhere close to officially joining NATO, something the US openly admits, and something Russia also knows. Still, NATO says Ukrainian future membership is a possibility because of its open-door policy, which says each country can freely choose its own security arrangements. To bar Ukrainian ascension would effectively give Russia a veto on NATO membership and cooperation. Removing NATO’s military presence on the alliance’s eastern flank would restore Russia’s influence over European security, remaking it into something a bit more Cold War-esque. Russia almost certainly knew that the US and NATO would never go for this. The question is what Putin thought he had to gain by making an impossible opening bid. Some see it as a way to justify invasion, blaming the United States for the implosion of any talks. “This is a tried-and-true Russian tactic of using diplomacy to say that they’re the good guys, in spite of their maximalist demands, that [they’re] able to go to their people and say, ‘look, we tried everything. The West is a security threat, and so this is why we’re taking these actions,’” said David Salvo, deputy director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund. On the other hand, Russia’s hardline requests — alongside its aggressive military buildup — may be intended to get the West to move on something. “I don’t think that this was intended by Putin to fail, as some think. I think it was intended to extract concessions,” said Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “And the question, of course, would be just how many concessions would satisfy the Russian government and obviously allow Putin to build up his domestic prestige.” And that really is the question, especially since, so far, nothing seems to have really worked. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, a seasoned negotiator, met with Russian counterparts in Geneva earlier in January but made little progress. Blinken and Lavrov met Friday for 90 minutes; the meeting yielded no breakthroughs but Russia and the US agreed to potentially keep at it, after the US delivers written answers to Russia’s demands next week. “I can’t say whether or not we are on the right path,” Lavrov told reporters, according to the New York Times. “We will understand this when we get the American response on paper to all the points in our proposals.” Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via Getty Images Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands ahead of security talks at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 21. Russia might not like the responses on NATO, but there are spaces where the US and NATO could offer concessions, such as greater transparency about military maneuvers and exercises, or more discussions on arms control, including reviving a version of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or even scaling back some US naval exercises in places like the Black Sea, which Russia sees as a provocation. “There is still potentially room on those fronts,” said Alyssa Demus, senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation. “That’s entirely possible that the US and Russia or NATO and Russia could negotiate on those — and then maybe table the other issues for a later date.” But if the US and NATO extend those olive branches or others, that might not be enough for Putin. Neither of these will resolve Putin’s fundamental sticking point. He has repeatedly framed the US and NATO as a major security threat to Russia for his domestic audience, including spreading disinformation about the West being behind the real chaos in Ukraine. “Having built up this formidable force, and issued all manner of ominous warnings, he’s got to come back with something tangible,” said Rajan Menon, director of the grand strategy program at Defense Priorities. Moscow will likely continue the diplomatic route for as long as it thinks it serves its interests. But Russia has previously said it wouldn’t “wait forever.” “If they decide that it’s not worth continuing to talk — that they’re not going to get enough of what they want from talking — then they might as well fight,” Oliker said. “Then they’re doing it because they think the fight is going to get them closer to that solution than not fighting.” Russia could opt to destabilize Ukraine — but it’s already been doing that Russia has deployed troops, tanks, and artillery near the Ukrainian border, movements that look as though Moscow is preparing for war. But what kind of war will determine the humanitarian, political, and economic tolls, and the response of Ukraine, the United States, and Europe. And, really, Ukraine is already at war. In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and exploited protests in the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, backing and arming pro-Russian separatists. Russia denied its direct involvement, but military units of “little green men” — soldiers in uniform but without insignia — moved into the region with equipment. More than 14,000 people have died in the conflict, which ebbs and flows, though Moscow has fueled the unrest since. Russia has also continued to destabilize and undermine Ukraine, including by launching cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and conducting disinformation campaigns. It is possible that Moscow takes aggressive steps — escalating its proxy war, launching sweeping disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks, and applying pressure in all sorts of ways that don’t involve moving Russian troops across the border and won’t invite the most crushing consequences. But this route looks a lot like what Russia has already been doing, and it hasn’t gotten Moscow closer to its objectives. “How much more can you destabilize? It doesn’t seem to have had a massive damaging impact on Ukraine’s pursuit of democracy, or even its tilt toward the west,” said Margarita Konaev, associate director of analysis and research fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). And that might prompt Moscow to see force as the solution. What happens if Russia invades There are plenty of scenarios mapping out a Russian invasion, from sending troops into the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine to seizing strategic regions and blockading Ukraine’s access to waterways, to a full-on war with Moscow marching on Kyiv in an attempt to retake the entire country. What Russia does, ultimately, will depend on what it thinks will give it the best chance of getting what it wants from Ukraine, or the West. Any of it could be devastating, though the more expansive the operation, the more catastrophic. Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images Ukrainian troops stand in a trench on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretske village, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on January 18. A full-on invasion to seize all of Ukraine would be something like Europe hasn’t seen in decades. It could involve urban warfare, including on the streets of Kyiv, and airstrikes on urban centers. It would cause astounding humanitarian consequences, including a refugee crisis. Konaev noted that all urban warfare is harsh, but the specifics of how Russia fights in urban settings — witnessed in places like Syria — has been “particularly devastating, with very little regard for civilian protection.” The colossal scale of such an offensive also makes it the least likely, experts say, and it would carry tremendous costs for Russia. “I think Putin himself knows that the stakes are really high,” Seskuria, of RUSI, said. “That’s why I think a full-scale invasion is a riskier option for Moscow in terms of potential political and economic causes — but also due to the number of casualties. Because if we compare Ukraine in 2014 to the Ukrainian army and its capabilities right now, they are much more capable.” (Western training and arms sales have something to do with those increased capabilities, to be sure.) Such an invasion would force Russia to move into areas that are bitterly hostile toward it. That increases the likelihood of a prolonged resistance (possibly even one backed by the US) — and an invasion could turn into an occupation. “The sad reality is that Russia could take as much of Ukraine as it wants, but it can’t hold it,” said Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. Still, Russia could launch an invasion into parts of Ukraine — moving to secure more of the east, or south to the Black Sea. That would still be a dramatic escalation, but the fallout will depend on what it looks like and what Russia seeks to achieve. The United States and its allies have said that a large-scale invasion will be met with aggressive political and economic consequences, including potentially cutting Russia off from the global financial system to nixing the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Biden, during his Wednesday remarks, said that if Russia invades it will be held accountable, though “it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do.” Some accused Biden of signaling that Russia could get away with a baby invasion, though the White House later clarified that any move across the Ukrainian border will be met with “a swift, severe, and united response” from the US and its allies. Ukraine has said there is no such thing as a “minor incursion.” But those remarks also reflected the challenges of trying to contain Russia in a place the United States and Europe do not themselves want to fight, and where allies do have competing interests. And Putin, of course, already knows this. “The question is,” Konaev said, “how much military power [Russia is] willing to commit to where it will call it a day and call it goals achieved?” Has Putin backed himself into a corner? Putin’s ultimatum — give me Ukraine, and a say in Europe, or I may do something with all these troops — is a dangerous one. Not just because, well, war, but because it has created a situation where Putin himself has to deliver. “He has two options,” said Olga Lautman, senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, “to say, ‘never mind, just kidding,’ which will show his weakness and shows that he was intimidated by US and Europe standing together — and that creates weakness for him at home and with countries he’s attempting influence.” “Or he goes full forward with an attack,” she said. “At this point, we don’t know where it’s going, but the prospects are very grim.” This is the corner Putin has put himself in, which makes a walk-back from Russia seem difficult to fathom. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of some sort of diplomatic solution that gives Putin enough cover to declare victory without the West meeting his explicit demands. It also doesn’t eliminate the possibility that Russia and the United States will be stuck in this standoff for months longer, with Ukraine caught in the middle and under sustained threat from Russia. But it also means the prospect of war remains. “The Russian government has not decided definitely on war. In other words, there is still a possibility of compromise,” Lieven said. “But that war is certainly much, much more likely than it has ever been since 2015.”
Preview: A woman receives a package with a rapid Covid-19 test in Gentbrugge, Belgium. In the US, free tests by mail are starting to roll out. | Philippe Francois/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images It is possible to create programs that don’t burden the people who need them most. This is an excerpt from the newsletter for The Weeds. To sign up for a weekly dive into policy and its effects on people, click here. This week, the Biden administration rolled out a plan to send up to four free Covid-19 tests to every household in America. But you probably already knew that. At times, there were over 700,000 concurrent visitors to the page on the USPS site — more than every other .gov page combined. The enthusiastic response was remarkable because it was unusual. There are at least three different ways the Covid-19 test rollout succeeded where people expect government to fail: It highlighted the failures of industrial and regulatory policy that have led to widespread shortages in at-home Covid-19 tests, and delays in results coming back from test sites. It brought back memories of new government websites being unable to handle high traffic volume (e.g. Healthcare.gov). It was quick and simple: The only information people needed to provide was their street address. The execution wasn’t perfect (a flaw affecting some apartment dwellers led the government to limit some buildings to a single four-test order) but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Which tells us something about how difficult Americans expect it to be to interact with the government, especially when trying to get the assistance the government has promised them. Emotional labor, but for government There are a few ways to think about these bureaucratic struggles. One, coined by Annie Lowrey in a 2021 Atlantic feature, is the “time tax” — the amount of time and energy that people waste interacting with the government. But my preferred term, popularized by the academics Donald Moynihan, Pamela Herd, and Hope Harvey is “administrative burden” — which refers not only to the concrete loss of time and money, but to the cognitive and psychological burdens of having to learn and comply with government rules. It’s hard to say just how much administrative burden there is. There’s no attempt to synthesize information about it even at the federal level, let alone the state and local governments that are responsible for implementing most safety-net programs. The best way to understand it is to look at all the labor involved to access a specific program: unemployment benefits in North Carolina, for example. The one overarching truth is that administrative burdens particularly harm people already marginalized because they’re most in need of assistance and because they’re most likely to have difficulty jumping through all the hoops. Maybe they don’t have a computer, maybe they don’t speak English or understand legalese, or maybe they have to forgo shifts at work just to go to the right office to submit a form. By extension, any restriction on who is eligible for benefits increases administrative burden, not only for people who apply and are found ineligible but also those who have to do more work to prove eligibility in the first place. The Covid-19 test webpage could be easy because there were no restrictions; it didn’t need to ask about anything besides your address. There’s also a second-order way that making programs universal fights administrative burden: When politically empowered, privileged Americans are inconvenienced by something, they’re more likely to make noise and get it to change. But there is little if any political incentive to reduce the burden on people who politicians don’t typically listen to or need to court, such as noncitizens or people disenfranchised due to criminal records. If you work in government or as a service provider — or if you are or know someone who’s been further marginalized by the hassle of administrative burden — I’m really curious to learn more about what you’ve seen. You can email email@example.com. It’s always good when The Weeds can talk about policy not only from the perspective of its designers, but also its users.
Preview: Thich Nhat Hanh, 92, reads a book in January 2019 at the Tu Hieu temple. “For him to return to Vietnam is to point out that we are a stream,” says his senior disciple Brother Phap Dung. | PVCEB “Letting go is also the practice of letting in, letting your teacher be alive in you,” says a senior disciple of the celebrity Buddhist monk and author. Editor’s note: The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism has announced that Thich Nhat Hanh died on January 22, 2022, in Huế, Vietnam. The interview below with one of his senior disciples was first published in March 2019. Thich Nhat Hanh has done more than perhaps any Buddhist alive today to articulate and disseminate the core Buddhist teachings of mindfulness, kindness, and compassion to a broad global audience. The Vietnamese monk, who has written more than 100 books, is second only to the Dalai Lama in fame and influence. Nhat Hanh made his name doing human rights and reconciliation work during the Vietnam War, which led Martin Luther King Jr. to nominate him for a Nobel Prize. He’s considered the father of “engaged Buddhism,” a movement linking mindfulness practice with social action. He’s also built a network of monasteries and retreat centers in six countries around the world, including the United States. In 2014, Nhat Hanh, who is now 93 years old, had a stroke at Plum Village, the monastery and retreat center in southwest France he founded in 1982 that was also his home base. Though he was unable to speak after the stroke, he continued to lead the community, using his left arm and facial expressions to communicate. In October 2018, Nhat Hanh stunned his disciples by informing them that he would like to return home to Vietnam to pass his final days at the Tu Hieu root temple in Hue, where he became a monk in 1942 at age 16. (The New York Times reports that nine US senators visited him there in April.) As Time’s Liam Fitzpatrick wrote, Nhat Hanh was exiled from Vietnam for his antiwar activism from 1966 until he was finally invited back in 2005. But his return to his homeland is less about political reconciliation than something much deeper. And it contains lessons for all of us about how to die peacefully and how to let go of the people we love. When I heard that Nhat Hanh had returned to Vietnam, I wanted to learn more about the decision. So in February I called up Brother Phap Dung, a senior disciple and monk who is helping to run Plum Village in Nhat Hanh’s absence. (I spoke to Phap Dung in 2016 right after Donald Trump won the presidential election, about how we can use mindfulness in times of conflict.) Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Wouter Verhoeven Brother Phap Dung, a senior disciple of Thich Nhat Hanh, leading a meditation on a trip to Uganda in early 2019. Eliza Barclay Tell me about your teacher’s decision to go to Vietnam and how you interpret the meaning of it. Phap Dung He’s definitely coming back to his roots. He has come back to the place where he grew up as a monk. The message is to remember we don’t come from nowhere. We have roots. We have ancestors. We are part of a lineage or stream. It’s a beautiful message, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and it is the deepest teaching in Buddhism: non-self. We are empty of a separate self, and yet at the same time, we are full of our ancestors. He has emphasized this Vietnamese tradition of ancestral worship as a practice in our community. Worship here means to remember. For him to return to Vietnam is to point out that we are a stream that runs way back to the time of the Buddha in India, beyond even Vietnam and China. Eliza Barclay So he is reconnecting to the stream that came before him. And that suggests the larger community he has built is connected to that stream too. The stream will continue flowing after him. Phap Dung It’s like the circle that he often draws with the calligraphy brush. He’s returned to Vietnam after 50 years of being in the West. When he first left to call for peace during the Vietnam War was the start of the circle; slowly, he traveled to other countries to do the teaching, making the rounds. And then slowly he returned to Asia, to Indonesia, Hong Kong, China. Eventually, Vietnam opened up to allow him to return three other times. This return now is kind of like a closing of the circle. It’s also like the light of the candle being transferred, to the next candle, to many other candles, for us to continue to live and practice and to continue his work. For me, it feels like that, like the light is lit in each one of us. Eliza Barclay And as one of his senior monks, do you feel like you are passing the candle too? Phap Dung Before I met Thay in 1992, I was not aware, I was running busy and doing my architectural, ambitious things in the US. But he taught me to really enjoy living in the present moment, that it is something that we can train in. Now as I practice, I am keeping the candlelight illuminated, and I can also share the practice with others. Now I’m teaching and caring for the monks, nuns, and lay friends who come to our community just as our teacher did. Eliza Barclay So he is 92 and his health is fragile, but he is not bedridden. What is he up to in Vietnam? Phap Dung The first thing he did when he got there was to go to the stupa [shrine], light a candle, and touch the earth. Paying respect like that — it’s like plugging in. You can get so much energy when you can remember your teacher. He’s not sitting around waiting. He is doing his best to enjoy the rest of his life. He is eating regularly. He even can now drink tea and invite his students to enjoy a cup with him. And his actions are very deliberate. Once, the attendants took him out to visit before the lunar new year to enjoy the flower market. On their way back, he directed the entourage to change course and to go to a few particular temples. At first, everyone was confused, until they found out that these temples had an affiliation to our community. He remembered the exact location of these temples and the direction to get there. The attendants realized that he wanted to visit the temple of a monk who had lived a long time in Plum Village, France; and another one where he studied as a young monk. It’s very clear that although he’s physically limited, and in a wheelchair, he is still living his life, doing what his body and health allows. Anytime he’s healthy enough, he shows up for sangha gatherings and community gatherings. Even though he doesn’t have to do anything. For him, there is no such thing as retirement. Eliza Barclay But you are also in this process of letting him go, right? Phap Dung Of course, letting go is one of our main practices. It goes along with recognizing the impermanent nature of things, of the world, and of our loved ones. This transition period is his last and deepest teaching to our community. He is showing us how to make the transition gracefully, even after the stroke and being limited physically. He still enjoys his day every chance he gets. My practice is not to wait for the moment when he takes his last breath. Each day I practice to let him go, by letting him be with me, within me, and with each of my conscious breaths. He is alive in my breath, in my awareness. Breathing in, I breathe with my teacher within me; breathing out, I see him smiling with me. When we make a step with gentleness, we let him walk with us, and we allow him to continue within our steps. Letting go is also the practice of letting in, letting your teacher be alive in you, and to see that he is more than just a physical body now in Vietnam. Eliza Barclay What have you learned about dying from your teacher? Phap Dung There is dying in the sense of letting this body go, letting go of feelings, emotions, these things we call our identity, and practicing to let those go. The trouble is, we don’t let ourselves die day by day. Instead, we carry ideas about each other and ourselves. Sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s detrimental to our growth. We brand ourselves and imprison ourselves to an idea. Letting go is a practice not only when you reach 90. It’s one of the highest practices. This can move you toward equanimity, a state of freedom, a form of peace. Waking up each day as a rebirth, now that is a practice. In the historical dimension, we practice to accept that we will get to a point where the body will be limited and we will be sick. There is birth, old age, sickness, and death. How will we deal with it? PVCEB Thich Nhat Hanh leading a walking meditation at the Plum Village practice center in France in 2014. Eliza Barclay What are some of the most important teachings from Buddhism about dying? Phap Dung We are aware that one day we are all going to deteriorate and die — our neurons, our arms, our flesh and bones. But if our practice and our awareness is strong enough, we can see beyond the dying body and pay attention also to the spiritual body. We continue through the spirit of our speech, our thinking, and our actions. These three aspects of body, speech, and mind continues. In Buddhism, we call this the nature of no birth and no death. It is the other dimension of the ultimate. It’s not something idealized, or clean. The body has to do what it does, and the mind as well. But in the ultimate dimension, there is continuation. We can cultivate this awareness of this nature of no birth and no death, this way of living in the ultimate dimension; then slowly our fear of death will lessen. This awareness also helps us be more mindful in our daily life, to cherish every moment and everyone in our life. One of the most powerful teachings that he shared with us before he got sick was about not building a stupa [shrine for his remains] for him and putting his ashes in an urn for us to pray to. He strongly commanded us not to do this. I will paraphrase his message: “Please do not build a stupa for me. Please do not put my ashes in a vase, lock me inside, and limit who I am. I know this will be difficult for some of you. If you must build a stupa though, please make sure that you put a sign on it that says, ‘I am not in here.’ In addition, you can also put another sign that says, ‘I am not out there either,’ and a third sign that says, ‘If I am anywhere, it is in your mindful breathing and in your peaceful steps.’” Further reading: Brother Phap Dung explains mindfulness for times of political conflict Zen teacher Frank Ostaseski on what the living can learn from the dying An interview with Robert Wright, the author of Why Buddhism Is True
Preview: Getty Images/iStockphoto It’s making the world a shittier place. West Elm Caleb is only the most recent example. What’s worse, ghosting someone you met on a dating app or calling up that guy’s workplace and demanding he be fired for ghosting someone on a dating app? This is a question that nobody in the world should ever have to think about, but is unfortunately the kind of question that we must ask ourselves every time a random person is anointed as the internet’s main character. What I’m talking about, in this case, is a guy known as “West Elm Caleb,” a 25-year-old who works at West Elm and does not seem like a very fun person to date. On TikTok, multiple women have accused him of ghosting, sending unsolicited photos of his dick, and scheduling several dates in the same day. If you have ever been a single 25-year-old in New York City, this kind of behavior is, while certainly not great, hardly uncommon. But what happened next followed the same exact pattern as everything that has gone viral on TikTok ever. Millions of people became invested in this (niche! not very interesting!) drama because it gives us something easy to be angry or curious or self-righteous about, something to project our own experiences onto, and thereby contributing even more content to the growing avalanche. Naturally, some decided to go look up the central character’s address, phone number, and workplace and share it on the internet. @kellsbellsbaby Reply to @jalmones #greenscreen ya this man ghosted me on Saturday and I found out through tik tok :-) anyways enjoy another sad dating story from me #nyc #fyp #dating #hinge ♬ original sound - kell You do not need me to tell you that the punishment does not exactly seem to fit the crime. What started at the level of juicy group chat drama has exploded into a national conversation, bypassing all measures of scale and scope. The same has happened with other people who have been the target of such dynamics — Sabrina Prater, for instance, the trans woman who was accused of being a serial killer for posting a video of herself dancing that supposedly had “bad vibes,” or Couch Guy, whose crime was seeming unexcited to see his girlfriend enter the room in a TikTok video. “It’s on social media, so it’s public!” one could argue as a case for people’s right to act like forensic analysts on social media, and that is true. But this justification is typically valid when a) the person posting is someone of note, like a celebrity or a politician, and b) when the stakes are even a little bit high. In most cases of normal-person canceling, neither standard is met. Instead, it’s mob justice and vigilante detective work typically reserved for, say, unmasking the Zodiac killer, except weaponized against normal people. In other words, it’s cancel culture in its creepiest form. And thanks to algorithms that prioritize engagement above all else, the stuff that gets people riled up the most is what floats to the surface. West Elm Caleb is only the latest example of many to come. The case of Couch Guy Imagine: You, a college student, are about to surprise your long-distance boyfriend at his own school. You’ve choreographed the moment; your mutual friends are there to help you orchestrate and film the big reveal. You enter the room, he gets up to hug you, everyone’s smiling. You set the resulting video to an Ellie Goulding song that plays at the emotional height of the rom-com Bridget Jones’s Baby. You post it on TikTok. This is what Lauren Zarras did on September 21, although nothing that happened after would go according to plan. Almost immediately, commenters began to joke about the video’s “bad vibes.” “You can FEEL the awkward tension bro,” wrote one. @laurenzarras robbie had no idea ♬ still falling for you - audiobear Many noted that when Lauren entered the room, her boyfriend was sitting on the couch with three other girls. “Girl he ain’t loyal,” said another commenter. “He hugged her like she was his aunt at Christmas dinner.” “I’ve never seen someone look so unhappy to see their girlfriend.” As of Friday afternoon, it had 60 million views. Lauren and her boyfriend — now known internet-wide as “Couch Guy” — had fallen into a common predicament: posting something online in an attempt to garner a certain reaction, then receiving the opposite. There are all kinds of flavors of this phenomenon, from the college student who posted a clip of their newly released song only to be ridiculed for it, to the spiritual influencer whose video about coincidences and manifestation turned him into a meme. Just last week, a woman pitched a story to the Times about a perceived slight from a fellow writer, presumably under the belief that she’d come off looking sympathetic, but then ended up being Twitter’s main character (never a good thing). In an essay for Slate, Couch Guy — real name Robert McCoy — wrote that he was “the subject of frame-by-frame body language analyses, armchair diagnoses of psychopathy, comparisons to convicted murderers, and general discussions about my ‘bad vibes.’” Embarrassing moments have delighted the public throughout history. For a piece on what happens when ordinary people go viral for the wrong reasons, Melissa Dahl, author of Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, told me that it’s natural for humans to delight in schadenfreude. “It’s our brains giving us a dose of exposure therapy,” she said. “Maybe the same thing is happening for people who are drawn to cringey content, [maybe they’re] people whose deepest fear is being ostracized or made to look like a fool.” But the way the internet has colluded to create viral moments out of normal people was perhaps pioneered a decade ago, when Rebecca Black became the epitome of the stereotype of the spoiled rich kid with a bad vanity music video. Platforms like TikTok, where even people with few or no followers often go viral overnight, expedite the shaming process. The real toxicity within this sort of discourse comes not from viewers but from the web sleuth dynamics that play out afterward. BuzzFeed called the image stills of Couch Guy seemingly grabbing his phone from the girl next to him “sus behavior,” while other creators claimed they could tell he was cheating because of a suspiciously placed arm and a black hair tie that showed up on Couch Guy’s wrist. One woman made a video warning Lauren about how the girls on the couch “are not your friends” because they didn’t immediately jump up to hug her. @thinksplendid Like are they ALL supposed to be earth signs? #couchguy ♬ still falling for you - audiobear Lauren — as well as everyone else in the video — has vehemently denied any shady behavior. “These comments are getting ridiculous and I don’t know why you guys are assuming so much about our relationship,” she said in one TikTok. Couch Guy himself made one that read: “Not everything is true crime. Don’t be a parasocial creep,” yet his comment section is still full of people saying things like, “You can gaslight your girlfriend, you can’t gaslight all of TikTok.” Couch Guy’s roommate has complained of people in their dorm sneaking messages under the door and trying to ask them about the video. “Y’all are so fucking creepy sometimes, I can’t,” he says. A scroll through Lauren’s previous TikToks shows commenters flocking to every single one, positing at what precise moment they think he “lost interest” in her and giving warnings like, “it’s like watching a soap opera and knowing who the bad guy is.” Humans love gossip and creating drama where there is none, even more so during the quieter pandemic months. There is a difference, though, between speculating on a celebrity’s dating life and a random college couple who, whether or not they end up together, insist they’re happy right now. There are real-world consequences that can get scary quickly. It’s time to leave West Elm Caleb, Couch Guy, and whatever unfortunate soul becomes the internet’s next reluctant main character, alone. Update, January 21, 3 pm ET: This story was originally published on October 12, 2021, and has been updated to include details about West Elm Caleb.
Preview: The Doomsday Clock shows 100 seconds to midnight on January 20, 2022. | Courtesy of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists The number of human-made existential risks has ballooned, but the most pressing one is the original: nuclear war. One hundred seconds to midnight. That’s the latest setting of the Doomsday Clock, unveiled yesterday morning by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. That matches the setting in 2020 and 2021, making all three years the closest the Clock has been to midnight in its 75-year history. “The world is no safer than it was last year at this time,” said Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us how much work is needed to ensure a safer and healthier planet.” As for why the world is supposedly lingering on the edge of Armageddon, take your pick. Covid-19 has amply demonstrated just how unprepared the world was to handle a major new infectious virus, and both increasing global interconnectedness and the spread of new biological engineering tools mean that the threat from both natural and human-made pathogens will only grow. Even with increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, climate change is worsening year after year. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, even advanced cyberhacking present harder-to-gauge but still very real dangers. The sheer number of factors that now go into Bulletin’s annual decision can obscure the bracing clarity that the Doomsday Clock was meant to evoke. But the Clock still works for the biggest existential threat facing the world right now, the one that the Doomsday Clock was invented to illustrate 75 years ago. It’s one that has been with us for so long that it has receded into the background of our nightmares: nuclear war — and the threat is arguably greater at this moment than it has been since the end of the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock, explained The Clock was originally the work of Martyl Langsdorf, an abstract landscape artist whose husband Alexander had been a physicist with the Manhattan Project. He was also a founder of the Bulletin, which began as a magazine put out by scientists worried about the dangers of the nuclear age and is now a nonprofit media organization that focuses on existential risks to humanity. Martyl Langsdorf was asked to design a cover for the magazine’s June 1947 issue. Inspired by the idea of a countdown to a nuclear explosion, Langdorf chose the image of a clock with hands ticking down to midnight, because — as the Bulletin’s editors wrote in a tribute to the artist — “it suggested the destruction that awaited if no one took action to stop it.” As a symbol of the unique existential peril posed by thousands of nuclear warheads kept on a hair trigger, the Doomsday Clock is unparalleled, one of the 20th century’s most iconic pieces of graphic art. It’s been referenced in rock songs and TV shows, and it adorned the cover of the first issue of the Watchmen graphic novel series. Its value is its stark simplicity. At a glance, anyone can see how close the Bulletin’s science and security experts, who meet twice a year to determine the Clock’s annual setting, believe the world is to existential catastrophe. The Clock may be wrong — predicting the apocalypse is a near-impossible task — but it cannot be misread. Corbis via Getty Images The test detonation of a nuclear bomb in Nevada in 1957. Since its introduction 75 years ago, the hands of the Clock have moved backward and forward in response to geopolitical shifts and scientific advances. In 1953, it was set to two minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time; in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR and the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it was moved back to 17 minutes to midnight, the furthest its been to 12 in its history. In 2018, thanks to what the Bulletin’s experts called a “breakdown in the international order” of nuclear actors and the growing threat of climate change, it was moved to 2 minutes to midnight and has been at 100 seconds since 2020. You may begin to notice the problem here. The metaphor of a clock provides the clarity of a countdown, but the closer the hands get to midnight, the more difficult it is to attempt to accurately reflect the small changes that could push the world closer or further from doomsday. Nor does it help that beginning in 2007 the Bulletin expanded the Clock to include any human-made threat, from climate change to anti-satellite weapons. The result is a kind of “doomsday creep,” as dangers that are real but unlikely to bring about the immediate end of human civilization — and which fit in poorly with the original metaphor of a clock — muddy its message. It’s also difficult to square a clock ticking ever closer to midnight with the fact that human life on Earth, broadly defined, has been getting better over the past 75 years, not worse. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing effects of climate change, and whatever might be brewing in an AI or biotech lab somewhere, humans are far healthier, wealthier, and — at least on a day-to-day basis — safer in 2022 than they were in 1947, and odds are that will still be true in 2023 regardless of the Clock’s next annual setting. This is the paradox of life in the age of existential risk — the sheer number of ways that we can cause planetary catastrophe can make it feel as if it’s nearly midnight, but compared to how life has been through most of human history, we’re living under the noonday sun. The one event that could change that instantly is the existential threat that the Doomsday Clock was originally designed to convey: nuclear war. Tick, tick, tick There’s a virtual reality program designed by security researchers at Princeton University that’s been making the rounds in Washington over the past month. Users don VR goggles and are transported to the Oval Office, where they play the role of the American president. A siren goes off and a military official transports you to the Situation Room, where users are confronted with a horrifying scenario: early warning sensors have detected the launch of 299 nuclear missiles from Russia that are believed with high confidence to be on a path to the American mainland and its ICBM sites, as Julian Borger describes in a recent Guardian piece. An estimated 2 million Americans will die. As president, you have fewer than 15 minutes to decide whether the attack is real and whether to launch American ICBMs in response before they are potentially destroyed on the ground. That’s a true ticking clock, and while it might feel like a throwback to Dr. Strangelove, it’s one that could still take place at any minute of any day. Though global nuclear arsenals are far smaller than they were in the darkest days of the Cold War, there are still thousands of operational nuclear warheads, more than enough to cause catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. And while earlier this month the five permanent members of the UN Security Council put out a joint statement affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” — words first said by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 — what’s actually happening on the ground is making that horrifying VR simulation more likely, not less. A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could realistically result in a conventional ground war fought on European soil, and it raises the risk of conflict between the US and Russia, which together possess most of the world’s remaining nuclear arsenal. Russia has hinted at the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons close to the US coastline, which would further reduce the warning time after launch to as little as five minutes, while Russian media has made claims that the country could somehow prevail in a nuclear conflict with the US. Washington is pursuing a modernization of the US nuclear arsenal that could cost as much as $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years, while Moscow undertakes its own nuclear update. China is reportedly expanding its own nuclear arsenal in an effort to close the gap with the US and Russia, even as tensions grow over Taiwan. The risk of a nuclear conflict is “dangerously high,” Jon B. Wolfsthal, a senior adviser at the anti-nuclear initiative Global Zero and the former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, wrote recently in the Washington Post. The result of such a war would be as predictable as it is unthinkable. The heat and shockwave from a single 800-kiloton warhead, which is the yield of most of the warheads in Russia’s ICBM arsenal, above a city of 4 million people would likely kill 120,000 people immediately, with more dying in the firestorms and radiation fallout that would follow. A regional or even global nuclear war would multiply that death toll, collapse global supply chains, and potentially lead to devastating long-term climatic change. In the worst-case scenario, as Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock told Vox in 2018, “almost everybody on the planet would die.” And unlike the other human-made threats the Doomsday Clock now aims to capture, it could unfold almost instantly — and even by accident. Multiple times during the Cold War technical glitches in the machinery of nuclear defense nearly led the US or the USSR to launch their missiles by mistake, and as the VR simulation demonstrates, the sheer speed of a nuclear crisis leaves very little room for error when the clock is ticking. Moving away from midnight As long as nuclear weapons exist in significant numbers, they present an existential threat to humanity. Unlike other disruptive technologies like AI or biological engineering, or even the fossil fuels that are the chief driver of climate change, they have no benign side. They are merely weapons, weapons of unimaginably destructive power, whether or not they inspire the dread they once did. Yet we’ve survived the nuclear age so far because we’ve had the wisdom — and the luck — not to use them since 1945, and more can be done to ensure that remains the case. Last year the US and Russia extended the New START nuclear weapons treaty, which put limits on the size of each nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal, for another five years, pausing the erosion of the post-Cold War arms control regime and giving diplomats more time to negotiate tighter limits in the future. The US and Russia also agreed to begin new sets of dialogues on how to better maintain nuclear stability in the future, and the White House is preparing a Nuclear Posture Review that could see the US specifically pledge not to use nuclear weapons first or in response to a conventional or cyber conflict, which could help reduce the chances of a renewed nuclear arms race. Fifty-nine nations have signed onto an international treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons (though none of the signatories are nuclear powers themselves). While it will reliably continue to be set every year — at least until midnight really does strike — the Doomsday Clock may have outlived its meaning as a symbol of existential risks in a rapidly changing world where the dangers and benefits of new technologies are so co-mingled. But as a warning for the original human-made catastrophic threat, the Doomsday Clock can still tell the time — and it may be later than we think. A version of this story was initially published in the Future Perfect newsletter. Sign up here to subscribe!
Preview: Talks between President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Build Back Better have reportedly been frozen for weeks. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Which proposals will have to give to bring Joe Manchin back to the table? Historic climate legislation may still have a chance. Success now hinges on Democrats, once and for all, figuring out exactly what it is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants to bring him back to the negotiating table to pass a version of the Build Back Better Act. The party is running out of time to deliver on climate change, but first they need to find a break in the frozen talks. When Democrats took control of the Senate a year ago, they had a mandate to ensure the United States would accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels and to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Without legislation, they underdeliver to a political base worried about the climate, a constituency they are counting on turning out in the midterms. Though the original Build Back Better Act is now dead, Congress still may have a shot at passing a bill to fund $550 billion for implementing clean energy incentives, funding electric vehicles and charging stations, instituting a fee on methane pollution, and helping the most vulnerable communities facing climate disasters. On the eve of his one-year anniversary as president, Biden laid out one last path forward to breaking the Senate stalemate on the original bill. “It’s clear to me ... that we’re going to have to probably break it up,” Biden told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. “I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues on the Hill — I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the $500-plus billion for energy and the environmental issues that are there.” There’s still more wrangling ahead to get Manchin’s support, but the Senate is up against a clock that’s ticking down until the midterms. The Senate doesn’t have forever to figure this out or start from scratch, because it also has to confirm nominees to the administration and avert a government shutdown in February. His vote, along with that of every other Democratic senator, is required to pass it using the reconciliation process, which lets Democrats bypass the Republican filibuster. Manchin has said much work still lies ahead. On Thursday, he told CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju, “We will just be starting from scratch. The main thing we need to do is take care of the inflation. Get your financial house in order. Get a tax code that works and take care of the pharmaceuticals that are [gouging] the people with high prices. We can fix that. We can do a lot of good things.” Biden suggested Democrats could reach a deal with Manchin and the other holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), with a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better, possibly by cutting back on the child tax credit and free community college. Importantly, Biden said that even with concessions to Manchin, they could preserve the climate provisions. Then Democrats might take another shot at passing these other priorities later this year. For once, there’s surprising agreement from Democratic leaders that the climate priorities won’t be what are sacrificed in any dealmaking ahead. Biden has been firm on that, and Manchin himself said a few weeks ago, “The climate thing is one that we probably can come to an agreement much easier than anything else. There’s a lot of good things in there.” Other senators have rallied around the imperative that the US not spend another decade delaying billions in clean energy funds and climate adaptation. “I just came off the worst year ever on my farm,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said. “We need to do something on climate change. I think we spent $144 billion this year on disasters, and I don’t think that included crop insurance. So we need to do something on climate, too.” There is no deal yet on what this slimmed-down BBB would look like, nor has Manchin suggested what he could agree to. And some pieces on climate change could still be cut: Manchin has criticized some provisions of the House bill, like a methane fee on gas producers responsible for excess pollution and tax credits that favor union-made electric vehicles. But much of the work of negotiating a climate agreement has already been done. “There’s already been tough choices and compromise to get to to a place where 50 US senators and the president support the climate provisions,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen, a climate group that has been advising Democrats on the legislation. The biggest compromise was cutting out the single most impactful climate policy in the House bill, a clean electricity standard that required utilities to meet benchmarks for wind and solar adoption. The remaining climate policies include $320 billion to finance clean energy adoption nationwide. These tax credits are already priced out for the decade, meeting one of Manchin’s demands to account for the 10-year cost of proposals in the package. Biden and congressional Democrats have hard decisions ahead. If Manchin is still negotiating in good faith, proposals will be on the chopping block. The tall order is getting every Democratic senator to come around to the idea that something will have to give to break through this logjam. “We’re just too close to striking a deal on this transformative climate investment,” Raad said. “We need to find the biggest, most aggressive Build Back Better bill that we can pass, taking the climate provisions with whatever we can agree to on the health care side, and we need to get this done.” More Senate Democrats have said this week they are open to giving Manchin what he wants to see this done. “We need to move to pass a package now that has 50 votes,” Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) told Axios. “The climate, justice and clean-energy provisions in Build Back Better have been largely worked through and financed, so let’s start there and add any of the other important provisions to support working families that can meet the 50-vote threshold.” For progressive Democrats, following Biden’s suggestion to break down the bill is a hard pill to swallow. That requires choosing among proposals that would all help different American communities. As the Atlantic’s Rob Meyer explained last week: “The greatest risk of all is that Democrats continue to procrastinate. It’s easier, after all, to wheedle Manchin than it is to pick a favorite among favorite proposals.” There’s also the chance that Manchin is not negotiating in good faith, and really does want to poison the bill by starting from scratch and tackling the national debt first. In that scenario, the decisions would be even harder. With the legislative path closed for climate action, activists would want to see Biden gamble on aggressive executive actions to address rising oil production and push clean energy, risking court interference. Democrats can’t count on Republican votes for climate action, but the agency budgetmaking process can still be an opportunity to advance climate policies (this still requires bipartisan support). So it isn’t just Biden and Democratic lawmakers who have hard choices ahead. Climate activists have also grown tired of seeing their demands shrink to a place where Manchin could support them. “We should pass climate legislation immediately, but we need to do so much more than that if we want young people across our country to have any faith in Democrats or our government going forward,” said Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement’s executive director.
Preview: A customer looks at plant-based foods in a refrigerated display case while shopping at a Tesco grocery store in London, England, on January 10. | Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images But it’s not remotely close to dropping animal meat. Animal agriculture accounts for around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — yet lawmakers largely ignore it when crafting policy to combat climate change. That neglect extends to the food industry more broadly, which for a long time has paid even less attention to its emissions than the energy or transport sectors. But as big fast food chains, grocers, and food manufacturers roll out sustainability plans, some are specifically committing to increasing and promoting their plant-based offerings, which are much less carbon-intensive than conventional meat and dairy products. Panera Bread kicked things off two years ago when it announced in January 2020 that it would make half of its menu plant-based in several years, up from 25 percent vegetarian at the time. Earlier this month, Burger King UK went a step further by announcing a plan to make its menu 50 percent plant-based by 2030 as a way to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 41 percent by 2030. And this week, McDonald’s announced plans to trial its McPlant burger made with Beyond Meat in 600 San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth area locations starting February 14. The change has been swift. In a report published late last year, FAIRR, or Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return — a nonprofit that lobbies food corporations to address the environmental and social risks of factory farming — found that the 25 companies it lobbies are all at work developing their own plant-based products, while seven of them have announced specific targets to expand their plant-based sales. For example, Tesco — a UK-based grocer with locations across Europe — plans to increase plant-based food sales by 300 percent from 2018 to 2025. The company will achieve this, in part, by “[providing] plant-based proteins where a meat version is featured,” according to a leaked letter written by former CEO David Lewis. “Like you, we realise the UK needs to reduce meat and dairy consumption,” Lewis said in the letter. The company recently told Vox it is now a third of the way toward reaching that goal. On its face, this seems like big progress for animal welfare and the climate, and in many ways it certainly is. Pledges to dramatically increase plant-based food sales — if fulfilled — will introduce new products to a lot more people and further normalize alternatives to factory-farmed meat, eggs, and milk. And increased sales will help plant-based startups scale, which should bring down prices. But as positive as these commitments are, they probably won’t make much of a dent in reducing Big Food’s greenhouse gas emissions or put fewer animals in factory farms, at least not in the short term. That’s because the pledges are additive, meaning they involve selling consumers more plant-based food but not necessarily less animal-based food. For a while, it’ll be hard to tell if increased plant-based sales are making a difference on sustainability and welfare, according to Stacy Pyett, program manager of the Proteins for Life research program at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. “Although we’re seeing significant growth in the purchase of [plant-based] products, we don’t see a corresponding decline in meat consumption across most of the wealthy world,” she said. That’s partly because that growth is starting from a very low baseline. In the US, plant-based meat sales grew 45 percent from 2019 to 2020, but still comprise about 1 percent of retail meat sales by volume. And it’ll take a lot more than reducing the price of plant-based meat to affect animal meat production. According to research from the Breakthrough Institute, a tech-focused environmental think tank, co-authored with agricultural economists Jayson Lusk and Glynn Tonsor, a 10 percent reduction in the price of plant-based beef could increase plant-based beef consumption by 23 percent — but it would only reduce cattle production by 0.15 percent. But successfully pressuring companies to actually displace their meat and milk with plant-based alternatives? That would be meaningful — and seems like the next logical step in the effort to reform factory farming. The possibilities and limitations of corporate pledges There’s precedent in the food industry for what kind of impact true “displacement” commitments could have. Over the last 15 years, animal advocates have gotten hundreds of food companies to commit to switching all of their eggs to cage-free, and now many are on track to follow through. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images 8,000 brown Leghorn and white Leghorn chickens roam about a cage-free aviary system barn at a California egg farm. These corporate cage-free commitments — paired with state laws that ban cages — have resulted in about 95 million fewer hens locked into cages in the US today than there were in 2010, making it a true example of positive displacement. And that number is expected to rise each year as companies fulfill their pledges and state laws go into effect. A good model might be the auto industry. For years, automakers added new hybrid and electric models on top of their mostly gas-fueled fleets. But recently, many of the biggest in the industry, including Toyota, GM, and Ford, have pledged that at least 40 percent of their new cars worldwide won’t use gasoline by 2030 — meaning gasoline-powered cars will be taken off the road to make room for electric vehicles. That could be a strategy for targeting our food system. And one way to carry it out is to pay attention to pledges that specifically call for a bigger ratio of plant-based to animal meat sales. According to FAIRR, two UK grocers the organization lobbies are reporting on their ratio of animal-based to plant-based sales: 10 percent of Sainsbury’s total protein and dairy sales in 2019 and 2020 were plant-based, while 5 percent of Tesco’s UK dairy sales were plant-based in the last year and 12 percent of its protein sales (excluding dairy) were plant-based. If 10 percent of a company’s protein and dairy sales are vegetarian now, why not lobby them to hit 20 percent by 2030? It’s the share of plant-based sales that ultimately counts for the climate and animal welfare, after all, not total sales — that is, assuming a company’s animal meat sales don’t significantly rise in tandem, which would offset climate or animal welfare gains made by an uptick in plant-based sales. Jo Raven, senior manager of research and engagements at FAIRR, told me the organization will continue to engage the more plant-inclined companies so that they “are not just increasing the sales of meat and dairy alternatives alongside sales of traditional meat,” and that “there needs to be a shift in the actual composition of their [food] portfolio.” She pointed to one example where a company has actually committed to making a sizable share of one of its categories plant-based: Unilever, which owns ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s, Cornetto, Breyers, and Magnum, and pledged to make 20 percent of its ice-cream portfolio composition non-dairy by 2030 (it’s currently at 10 percent). In an emailed statement, Matt Close, executive vice president of global ice cream at Unilever, told me that they’ll get there by adding new non-dairy flavors (Ben & Jerry’s recently added two new ones, for example). Even bolder are the 50 percent plant-based menu pledges by Burger King UK and Panera Bread. (Burger King UK aims to hit the target by 2030, while Panera Bread’s is unspecified but its CEO told Business Insider in 2020 it’s working to achieve this over the next several years.) Like any other corporate pledge, these are non-binding and voluntary. Although the business world is starting to take climate change more seriously, many sustainability pledges are either not met or aren’t ambitious enough to meaningfully reduce emissions. New laws and regulations are what’s needed to really move the needle. While it’s hard to imagine governments taking bold action in the near future — if ever — to reduce meat and dairy production, there are rumblings. The Dutch government has introduced a $28.3 billion, 13-year proposal to pay farmers to stop raising animals, raise fewer animals, or relocate their herds, all in an effort to reduce animal manure pollution by reducing the number of pigs, chickens, and cows by a third. Several governments have even entertained imposing a meat tax, though the politics of that are extremely challenging. But in the corporate realm, real progress will be determined by how much of these pledges become reality and how willing these companies are to juice up their commitments and be truly disruptive as emissions continue to rise. “We need to be ambitious and bold,” Rachel Dreskin, of the trade group Plant Based Foods Association, told me. “I think a lot of food companies are going to come around to this, even those that have had the majority of their portfolios based in animal products — or historically all. I think the moment is now.” How Big Food could nudge its customers to eat more plant-based One intermediate strategy grocers and other food companies could use to increase plant-based purchasing — given they’re not likely to reduce animal product availability anytime soon, if ever — is what Pyett calls “choice architecture,” or changing the environments where people eat and purchase foods. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images Plant-based Beyond Burger patties sit alongside various packages of ground beef for sale at a grocery store in New York City. A prime example of choice architecture at work is Kroger’s decision to sell its plant-based meats and cheeses in the conventional meat and cheese sections, rather than in a separate vegan aisle. “The research found that when plant-based meats were placed within the animal meat departments, sales increased by 23 percent versus being sold in a separate section,” said Dreskin, whose Plant Based Foods Association conducted in-store tests with Kroger. Google’s move to put plant-based healthy foods up front in its corporate cafeterias is another example. A study conducted by Hannah Malan at a UCLA dining hall, where students don’t have to pay extra for plant-based meat, found that heavy promotion of a burrito with Impossible Foods’ ground beef caused around a tenth to a quarter of students to choose the Impossible burrito, and about half of them chose it over animal meat. (Some students selected the Impossible version over the third option — a veggie-based burrito — but there was still a net increase in plant-based consumption.) The environmental nonprofit World Resources Institute has published research into how small changes in marketing can nudge consumers to purchase more plant-based food. Three of its recommendations include mentioning the provenance of a dish, avoiding restrictive healthy language, and mixing in vegetarian dishes with meat-based dishes on menus, rather than relegating them to the Siberia of the “vegetarian section.” Some of the grocers FAIRR is engaging with are working on choice architecture. In addition to selling plant-based meat next to animal-based meat, some have committed to better promoting plant-based foods in their stores. Last year Tesco dropped prices on dozens of its private-line vegetarian products to make them more accessible. This “nudge” approach might be the best option for now. Even though there’s a lot of consumer excitement around plant-based foods, it’s still a niche category, so measurably reducing meat and dairy offerings in-store and on menus would likely backfire for any company that tried it. Instead, Pyett says, “Policymakers and industry and retail need to collaborate and talk about what kind of food choice architecture we want to build — what should a supermarket look like to [help people] make the right, healthy choice?”
Preview: Cheer season two on Netflix. | Courtesy of Kyle Alexander/Netflix Cheer’s second season is a good story about cheerleading and a better story about the price of fame. At first blush, I didn’t really have any interest in watching the second season of Cheer, Netflix’s hit docuseries about competitive junior college cheerleading. It’s not because of quality. The first season was a hypnotizing blend of drama, athleticism, and triumph complete with real-life cheerleaders — a talented troublemaker, a diamond in the rough, a charming second-stringer, a diehard rookie, a superstar — and an icy, determined coach who seemed to be written for television. I loved it. But I also watched as those people from my beloved docuseries became real-life celebrities. It’s what happens to a lot of reality show personalities. They get on television and the followers start rolling in. The media attention skyrockets, the endorsement deals arrive, and then, instead of their lives creating the show, the show becomes their life. In Cheer’s case, it gets even bleaker. In September 2020, season one star Jerry Harris was arrested by the FBI for allegedly soliciting child pornography. Later that year, in December, Harris was indicted on new charges alleging that he was soliciting minors to send him sexually explicit videos and photos of themselves. Still, a friend urged me to watch, and soon I found myself fixated. The show had changed into something else entirely. Instead of showcasing talent, Cheer’s second season is laser-focused on how fame has affected America’s cheerleading sweethearts. It turns out that just a small amount of celebrity can turn heroes into villains, friends into enemies, and make winning feel a lot like losing. Navarro becomes too famous too soon The boldest move that creator Greg Whiteley made in the second season is not shying away from the impact of the show. Its success didn’t happen in a vacuum, and the first episodes really show you how popular coach Monica Aldama and the kids became. They met Kendall Jenner and Arizona Cardinals football player JJ Watt. They were given $20,000 on Ellen to upgrade their gym and got to hug Oprah. They’ve amassed massive followings on Instagram and some are raking in dollars on Cameo. Aldama was a contestant on the 29th season of Dancing With the Stars. It’s not hard to read in between the lines and see why so many kids decided to come back for another go. Some of their rehearsed responses to media outlets, on social media, and recorded on the series about Navarro College being “a special place” do a lot of the work. They’re back in Navarro because it’s a meal ticket, and any young person would be an idiot not to take advantage of the possible endorsements, celebrity, and windfall that would come with a successful second season. Initially, Coach Monica and Navarro College were portrayed as a Blind Side-like feel-good story. Her program, which dominates the two-team junior college division, was depicted as a lifeline for some troubled teens, possibly helping them to get away from broken homes and rough streets, and into college. While there are legitimate questions about what it means to take young, vulnerable people and put them in physically punishing situations, the show’s story was one of the mental and physical sacrifice it takes to achieve greatness. Fame empirically changes that equation. It turns the Navarro narrative into something else entirely. It doesn’t feel as pure or as good when you realize that maybe the kids didn’t come back because they needed a life lesson or Coach Monica’s discipline. Maybe they just needed to cash in on another season before fame runs out. You can almost taste the acidic resentment from team members who weren’t featured on the first season when they’re interviewed this time around. It doesn’t take that many episodes for some of those team members to pivot their personal stories toward the camera. Courtesy of Kyle Alexander/Netflix Cheerleading! In the season one finale, it looked like a second season was in doubt because Varsity Spirit, a company that controls major cheerleading tournament coverage, did not seem to enjoy Navarro being filmed for its first season. Varsity did not allow Netflix’s crew access to the National Championship, and footage from Navarro’s performance was captured by attendees. The other big question was if the show was going to continue given the very serious child abuse charges against star Jerry Harris. A second season of Cheer wouldn’t be truthful and probably wouldn’t exist if it didn’t examine Harris’s investigation and didn’t have team members and Aldama speaking out about it. While the show handles it directly, the people on it sometimes falter. The show, then, isn’t really about the cheer program at all anymore, as much as it is about how impossible it is to wield fame. It’s this enormous celebrity and good fortune that makes it, at times, difficult to empathize with Coach Monica when she complains about her life and the negativity from people on her social media. Her newfound fame has brought newfound haters, as is par for the course. She comes off as a person who does not fully recognize the amount of fame, prestige, and goodwill she’s received in such a short amount of time. Watching someone get what they — and many other people — want, and struggle with it always makes for a complex, even alienating viewing experience. The make-or-break moment in the series happens when Coach Monica accepts an invite from Dancing With the Stars. In order to keep her participation a secret, she keeps her team in the dark, which is understandable. Sure. But a few interviews with her squad reveal that she was unreachable while filming, which eroded their trust in her. In her absence, a new assistant coach named Kailee Peppers asserts her power. Aldama chose the show, and the prestige that came with it, over coaching her team. That moment all but sours the promise that “coming to cheer for Coach Monica” used to hold. Monica says that it’s partly because of the Dancing with the Stars fatigue and spotlight that she couldn’t properly deal with the shocking and infuriating child porn allegations facing Jerry Harris. The second season’s fifth episode lends its platform to the twin boys who allege that Jerry sexually assaulted and coerced them, and includes interviews with their mother. Monica, we’re told from season one, cares about each of her kids and teaches them to be good humans. Jerry’s alleged behavior calls her relationship with him into question. With mounting evidence against Jerry and new indictments, Monica’s response is to complain about how she’s receiving negativity on social media, instead of marked concern about the very grave charges Jerry is facing, and for the well-being of the children who were allegedly involved. The coach who cares seems to be writing this incident off with an “I don’t know.” If Cheer’s season one is about sacrifice — physical injury, pared-down social lives, moving to a nowhere town in Texas, relentless practices — to achieve greatness, season two is an unvarnished look at how that payoff can bring its own set of problems. Enter: Trinity Valley The second season of Cheer also benefits by having underdogs to root for in Trinity Valley Community College, Navarro’s main rivals. In the first installment, they’re portrayed almost like villains, the only team that stands in the way of Navarro’s destiny. But now they’re back, reloaded with a superstar rookie class, but without Navarro’s glitz, glamour, and $20,000 facility upgrade courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres. Jada Wooten, a TVCC veteran who wants to take down Navarro’s Instagram-famous Goliath in her last year, is easy to root for. It’s do or die for Jada this time around. She takes it upon herself to give pep talks, to push her teammates, and to turn TVCC into a family unit. She’s the right-hand woman of coach Vontae Johnson, who seems to provide a stark counter to Monica. Jada and her teammates credit him with helping them be better. Vontae points out that Navarro has its pick of polished athletes ready to compete (a television show will help you do that), while he finds athletes who have the most potential. Courtesy of Kyle Alexander/Netflix Jada, of Trinity Valley Community College’s cheer team. That means teaching Jada to overcome her mental block and turning the “Weenies,” a group of uber-talented young men that defy gravity, into performers. The big problem with the Weenies is that despite their fantastic tumbling, they’re hung up on appearing masculine, and don’t want to smile or sass the way cheerleaders are supposed to. Whether or not Vontae and his sidekick coach Khris Franklin can shape this team into a national champion and beat their more famous rivals becomes the central tension of the back half of the season. At some points, the Trinity Valley team feels as though they were specifically created in a lab to be the perfect foils and underdogs to the Navarro juggernaut. Navarro has a new stage, while Trinity Valley unfurls their raggedy mats before every practice. Navarro’s superstar Gabi Butler is Instagram-famous, while Jada is relatively unknown to viewers. Navarro’s group of veterans knows how to win, while Trinity Valley is relying on rookies like dynamo Angel Rice. It makes for electric TV, and since the show has given Navarro enough slack to turn themselves into villains, it’s hard not to root for Trinity Valley in their national championship showdown. What’s peculiar about this, though, is that the entire series underscores that this is all too good to be true. Fame is cyclical; it imploded Navarro, and Trinity Valley is up next to enter the celebrity assembly line. The spotlight has an uncanny way of unearthing secrets and testing character, in ways that Trinity Valley hasn’t yet faced. Celebrity killed Navarro’s feel-good story, and there’s no reason to think the same couldn’t happen to TVCC.
Preview: A bank review of António Horta-Osório’s travel found that Credit Suisse was paying for planes to return empty after dropping him off in London and Lisbon.
Preview: Investors will be looking for reassurance after the Nasdaq notched a 12% decline to start the year.
Preview: The group offered $64 a share in cash and told the department-store chain that it has received assurances about financing. Kohl’s shares closed at $46.84 Friday.
Preview: Carnival and Royal Caribbean are adjusting to destinations’ changing health protocols as the industry looks to recover from pandemic-related losses.
Preview: Regulators and researchers are on the lookout for signs the virus is morphing to evade the new drugs, while they also study combining antivirals to stay a step ahead.
Preview: In a speech to the World Economic Forum, the Treasury secretary said the White House is aiming to increase labor supply and boost worker productivity.
Preview: New York, California and Florida are among the states planning big one-time investments in worker bonuses, tax rebates and paying down debt.
Preview: After their failed push on elections legislation, Democrats are again turning to the economic plan, which President Biden said the party might cut into separate pieces.
Preview: Existing-home sales rose 8.5% last year from a year earlier to 6.12 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
Preview: Jobless claims rose sharply as the labor market, a source of economic growth, faces headwinds with Omicron cases remaining high.
Preview: President Joe Biden in a recent press conference said he makes “no apologies” about Afghanistan — though felt sorry for those who were “blown up” at the airport, due to America’s ill-planned departure. Then he assured he pressed hard in November at China’s President ...
Preview: The Monterey County California Sheriff’s office has ordered evacuations near Big Sur and closed a stretch of the iconic Pacific Coast Highway amid a wildfire that broke out late Friday. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced Saturday that the wind-driven fire had burned over two square miles ...
Preview: ROME | Only Silvio Berlusconi — the billionaire media tycoon whose four tumultuous terms as Italy’s prime minister were marred by allegations of corruption, mob links, and the occasional “bunga bunga” sex party — could turn Italy’s normally boring presidential elections into a global news story. Debate on a new ...
Preview: The military-industrial complex and its clients sprinkled throughout both political parties seem to have decided that the next place we need to go and kill people (or at least sell weapons to help others kill people) is Ukraine, assuming that Russia decides to slice off a section of its former ...
Preview: Once upon a time, “Sex and the City” was a well-written show. I know, because as a straight guy who was single when it aired, I was often held captive by the women I dated to watch it. In time, Stockholm syndrome took hold, and I started to wonder what ...
Preview: ROME (AP) — Former premier Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday bowed out of Italy's presidential election set for next week, claiming he had the votes to win but the country could ill-afford political divisions during the pandemic. Berlusconi also announced that he is opposing, along with his allies in a center-right ...
Preview: The Arizona Democratic Party executive board voted on Saturday to censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema over her decision to join her Republican colleagues in blocking a Democratic attempt to change Senate filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation. The board said the “ramifications of failing to pass federal legislation” that protects ...
Preview: Fissures between Ukrainian and German officials emerged Saturday over Berlin’s refusal to arm Ukrainian defense forces amid fears of an imminent Russian invasion. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Saturday that Germany is committed to de-escalating the conflict but that “arms deliveries would ...
Preview: The first shipment of a $200 million U.S. security assistance package aimed at boosting Ukrainian defense forces arrived in Kyiv, the U.S. Embassy announced Saturday. The delivery touched down at Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport amid heightened tensions stemming from Russia’s troop buildup along its border with Ukraine. “The donation, which ...
Preview: A New York City Police officer was killed and another critically wounded while responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem Friday evening. Mayor Eric Adams joined police officials in denouncing the violence against officers and called for a crackdown on guns in the city. “It is our city against ...
Preview: WASHINGTON, D.C.—Addressing the nation from his dark tower, Dr. Fauci revealed today that he has been forging in secret a master vaccine to rule all the others and cover all the lands in darkness. The "One Vaccine to Rule Them All" apparently gives Fauci the power to control anyone who has "so foolishly" taken his free gift of vaccines throughout the pandemic. The post Fauci Reveals He Has Forged In Secret A Master Vaccine To Rule All The Others appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: MEMPHIS, TN—Local man Quinton Parker went to a friend's house Friday afternoon, ready to finally play a skill-based board game perfect for strategic masterminds like himself. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the game because upon his defeat the board game suddenly transformed into a game of random chance. The post Strategic, Skill-Based Board Game Becomes Stupid Game Of Random Chance Following Loss appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a surprise move, President Biden gave Russia the green light to launch an invasion into Ukraine, with the small caveat that they don't blow up the oil company paying for Hunter's art lessons. The post Biden Says Russia Can Invade Ukraine So Long As They Avoid Hunter’s Gas Company appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: ATLANTA—A member of CNN's Misinformation Squad was found hiding under a desk in the basement after making a frightful call to the police. "The misinformation is coming from inside the building," whispered the terrified employee to an alarmed 911 dispatcher. The post 'The Misinformation Is Coming From Inside The Building,' Whispers Terrified CNN Misinformation Team Member appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: The post Gavin Newsom Demands Answers From Whoever's In Charge Of California appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: U.S.—Costco members across the country are rejoicing following the retailer's announcement that they will now be selling bags of rotisserie chicken with just the skin. After an overwhelming number of requests, Costco has decided to give in to their customers' demands and just sell bags of crisp, tasty chicken skin. The post By Popular Demand Costco Now Just Selling Bags Of Rotisserie Chicken Skin appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: TALLAHASSEE, FL—In response to a progressive redesign of M&M characters, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an Executive Order Friday to require the green M&M character to still be sexy in all advertising used in the state of Florida. The post 'Not On My Watch': DeSantis Signs Executive Order That Green M&M Must Still Be Sexy In Florida appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
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Preview: When M&M bravely transformed their M&M characters into progressive liberals they shined a spotlight on a problem no one had ever considered before. Can candy be racist? Can it be transphobic or deplorable? The answer, we now know, is yes. The post 9 Offensive Candies That Need To Get Woke Immediately appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: SAN FRANCISCO—A cashier working the closing shift at a small mom-and-pop store on Sutter St. was left shocked and bewildered when a customer tried to pay for her items. The post San Francisco Store Clerk Confused As Shopper Actually Tries To Pay For Merchandise appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: TENNESSEE—Deepening the ties between the two institutions, a new partnership between the NFL and the U.S. military unveiled Saturday would send the first 1,000 fans who stand for the national anthem off to war. “The National Football League has long been a strong supporter of the troops who have sacrificed so much to… Read more...
Preview: Joe Biden has completed the first year of his presidency, a tenure that has seen its share of controversy and political gridlock. The Onion looks at the highlights of President Biden’s first year in office. Read more...
Preview: The makers of M&Ms have announced that the candy characters have undergone a makeover that brand executives say better reflects the diverse and nuanced world of their fans, with the green M&M now wearing sneakers instead of white, heeled go-go boots. What do you think? Read more...
Preview: LAS VEGAS—Waving away her manager and Colosseum bookers, renowned pop musician Adele announced the postponement of her Las Vegas residency Friday, reportedly to avoid giving up her seat at a hot slot machine. “I was so looking forward to performing, but goddamn, I’m on one hell of a hot streak,” the Grammy-winning… Read more...
Preview: VEVEY, SWITZERLAND—Pledging to never stand in the way of the “raw animal magnetism” the candies were world-renowned for, Nestlé released a statement Friday announcing that consumers were free to sexualize Raisinets all they wanted. “Whether you want to use a box to stimulate yourself to the point of orgasm, or simply… Read more...
Preview: NEW YORK—Following up on the momentum generated by expanding both the regular season and the playoff field, the NFL announced Friday that it would be expanding this year’s Super Bowl to include two additional teams. “We think that bringing more teams and fandoms into the playoffs this year has been a huge success,… Read more...
Preview: LOS ANGELES—Reassuring himself that he only needed to get through the next week without the actor’s demise to avoid another embarrassing blunder, People magazine editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford admitted Friday that he was sweating bullets after dedicating the upcoming issue to Alan Alda’s 86th birthday. “Obviously,… Read more...
Preview: CHICAGO—Using the rendered animal fat to limit the impact of winter weather, Chicago city workers reportedly cleared ice Friday by pouring hot beef drippings onto roads. “In order to ensure residents can safely commute around the city, we are working around the clock to clear streets of ice and snow by coating them… Read more...
Preview: CLEVELAND—With critics calling the instrument an essential part of Sumeria’s history of killer riffs and hot licks, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame came under pressure Friday to return to Iraq an ancient Mesopotamian Stratocaster that was plundered by British archaeologists during the colonial era. “Dating from 3300 BC,… Read more...
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