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The Atlantic
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There’s Snow on TV, So Trump’s Tweeting About Climate Change
It’s something of an annual tradition for the president. On Sunday morning, as the eastern half of the country endured driving snow and frigid winter winds, Donald Trump asked on Twitter how climate change could be real if it was so cold outside.“Be careful and try staying in your house,” he said. “Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold. Amazing how big this system is. Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!”Trump has raised similar concerns about that “good old-fashioned Global Warming” nearly every year since 2012. If it snows near Manhattan, the president says he isn’t sure about climate change.Unfortunately, even as New York has occasionally been blasted with frozen precipitation, the world has kept warming. The last four years have been the four warmest years on record—a fact that NASA and NOAA were due to announce this past week, were the government not shutdown. Earlier this winter, Washington, D.C., experienced a shocking 22 days of above-average temperatures, and the northeast as a whole saw a balmy January. President Trump did not seize that opportunity to affirm that global warming was real.The simple, tedious fact is that two things can be true at the same time: The world’s average temperature can be clearly and dangerously increasing, and it can still snow sometimes in the northeastern United States. Climate emerges from averages, and the averages are unambiguous. Snowpack and ice cover are decreasing, especially in the Mountain West. The Great Lakes’ winter-ice cover has declined by 71 percent over the last 40 years. The average time between the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall has increased in every region of the country since the early 20th century.None of these facts are likely to convince Trump, for Trump seems to have decided he does not want to be convinced. As I wrote last year, he has expressed no interest or curiosity in updating his beliefs to reflect new facts. Instead, he has fought to keep those facts from the public: In November, every U.S. scientific agency affirmed the fact of human-driven climate change. The White House responded by trying to bury the report by releasing it on Black Friday.“One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” he told The Washington Post while rejecting his own government’s dire climate conclusions last year. “Believers” is an unfortunate choice of word, because facts, alas, keep being true whether you believe in them or not. It is dangerously icy in the Northeast, and by all means local residents should stay inside. But a brief cold spell does not undo decades of scientific fact.
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World Edition - The Atlantic
The Lackluster Return for Saturday Night Live Had One Real Standout Moment
Pete Davidson has been largely absent from Saturday Night Live for the last couple of months. The 25-year-old comedian has had a tabloid spotlight trained on him since last June, when his engagement to pop star Ariana Grande became the story of the summer. Davidson, whose comedic approach is raw and personal, would often stop by SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment to joke about the volatility of his relationship, which eventually collapsed. In November, he apologized to the incoming Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw for mocking the veteran’s combat injury on the air. Less than a month later, Davidson posted on Instagram about feeling suicidal, alarming people enough that a police officer was sent to the SNL studios to check on him.This is all to say that when Davidson showed up behind the “Weekend Update” desk for the most recent Saturday Night Live episode, the first of 2019, the jokes felt even more charged than usual. “I’ve had a really crazy month, and I want to talk about something that matters a lot to me,” he said. “Oh, okay. Mental health?” the “Update” host Colin Jost asked. “No,” Davidson replied, “the new Clint Eastwood movie, The Mule!” As Jost and his co-host Michael Che confessed that they had not yet seen Eastwood’s latest auteur effort, Davidson tagged in a friend and “Mule appreciator,” the comedian John Mulaney, kicking off the only truly outstanding segment of the night.Mulaney was a staff writer on SNL from 2008 to 2013, co-created one of the show’s most legendary “Weekend Update” characters (Bill Hader’s Stefon), and has since returned to host. But of late, Mulaney has forged a curious public bond with Davidson, something the guest acknowledged in his introduction. “I didn’t actually realize that you guys hung out together,” Jost remarked. “We do, but a lot of times it looks like I’m Pete’s lawyer,” Mulaney joked. “For real, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Pete to try to show him that you can have a life in comedy that is not insane, a sober, domestic life,” he continued. (Mulaney himself has been sober for many years, a subject he has incorporated into his stand-up).“Yeah, and after observing John’s life, I publicly threatened suicide. I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t make that joke, but it is funny,” Davidson said with a chuckle, toeing his usual line between confessional comedy and cringe-inducing shock humor. “Pete, look me in the eye,” Mulaney said. “You are loved by many, and we are glad you are okay. Now, back to The Mule.” It was a jolting, sweet, and undeniably sensitive moment—a way for the show to acknowledge Davidson’s struggles without dipping into pure, po-faced sincerity (something Davidson would likely despise). The duo’s connection is also clearly genuine—Mulaney recently talked about his trip to a Steely Dan concert with Davidson on The Tonight Show and has posted several Instagrams while on the road with the comic.Their shared delight at the plot details of The Mule, which stars Eastwood as a late-in-life drug runner, was equally authentic. “You remember when Clint Eastwood berated an empty chair at the Republican National Convention?” Mulaney asked. “It’s like if that was a movie!” Davidson replied. The pair marveled at Eastwood’s character being still allowed to drive at the age of 90: “This was a superhero movie for old people about a guy whose superpower is that he can drive unsupervised,” Mulaney quipped. “Fulfilling another elderly-grandpa fantasy, that a 90-year-old white man can do any job better than a Mexican, even when the job is Mexican drug trafficking.”Beyond the jabs at Eastwood’s movie, though, what elevated the segment was Davidson and Mulaney’s vibrant odd-couple chemistry. Mulaney has the clipped, precise delivery of a veteran, Johnny Carson–esque comic (his talent as a stand-up includes knowing exactly which syllables to hit hardest in every joke), while the hyperactive Davidson seems like he could misread a cue card at any moment or break into unplanned guffaws. Their pairing felt more alive than the show’s ongoing “Update” team, Jost and Che. The segment has long been in need of revamping, and unfortunately Mulaney, who has for years been an obvious pick for the hosting job, is likely too busy with his own career to return to SNL full-time.New year or not, this SNL season remains in flux, quality-wise. The political material is still quite wanting—this week’s cold open sketch, starring Alec Baldwin as President Trump, cast the ongoing U.S. government shutdown as a Deal or No Deal game show, a premise that would’ve felt stale even in 2006, when Deal or No Deal was popular (new episodes now air on the cable channel CNBC). Some of the episode’s other, sillier sketches were worth a laugh, like a parody-news report from an office where people were trying to change their (ridiculous, sometimes obscene) names, but it was an overall lackluster return to the airwaves for the show, with the host Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) feeling lost in the shuffle. SNL’s season cannot be saved with a Mule appreciation alone, but the authenticity of Mulaney and Davidson’s glee, and their unmistakable bond, certainly gave the episode a much-needed boost.
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World Edition - The Atlantic
The Mayor of Covington, Kentucky, Explains What His City Stands For
I don’t know who the young man in the MAGA hat in this photo is. And I don’t care to know.His name, which the internet will inevitably turn up, really doesn’t matter. It matters to his parents, of course—and to his teachers. I hope they will be reflective, and I know they should be ashamed: of this smirking young man and the scores of other (nearly all white) students from a Catholic school in Kentucky. Today, on the National Mall in Washington, they mocked, harassed, and menaced a Native American man who had fought for the United States in Vietnam and who today represented both the U.S. and his Omaha nation with poise, courage, and dignity.That man’s name matters. It is Nathan Phillips.The mob members’ names don’t matter, any more than the names of their counterparts you see in the photo below, from Little Rock’s Central High School in the 1950s. The young men from Covington Catholic High School should know that they will be immortalized, the way the angry young white people you see below were: as a group, a movement, a problem, beyond their identities as individuals.If one of the priests or teachers with the Covington group today had stepped in to stop them—if even one of the students had said, “Come on, back off!”—that person would be remembered, too. But there is no sign that anyone, student or teacher or parent or priest, did.Black students integrating Little Rock Central High School, 1957. (AP)Teenagers do stupid things, especially teenaged boys. I was once a teenaged boy, and my wife and I raised two sons.But stupidity doesn’t have to mean hatred and bigotry. Someone taught these young people—those in Arkansas in the 1950s, those from Kentucky today—to behave the way they did.Parents, priests, teachers, neighbors—someone taught these young men.Here is another person who should be remembered: the mayor of Covington, Kentucky, Joe Meyer, who within hours of the Mall incident released a statement saying that the actions of the young people on the video were the opposite of his city’s values.His statement is worth reading in full. A sample: Because of the actions of people who live in Northern Kentucky, our region is being challenged again to examine our core identities, values, and beliefs. Regardless of what exact town we live in, we need to ask ourselves whether behavior like this DOES represent who we are and strive to be. Is this what our schools teach? Are these the beliefs that we as parents model and condone? Is this the way we want the rest of the nation and the world to see us? In answer, let me—as Covington’s mayor—be absolutely clear: No. The videos being shared across the nation do NOT represent the core beliefs and values of this City. Covington is a diverse community, in areas of race, national origin, ethnicity, religious preference, sexual orientation, and income… We’re not perfect. More progress needs to be made, and we will continue to work diligently on making it. In the meantime, Covington is proud of being a welcoming City where bigotry, discrimination, and hatred will not be tolerated. Congratulations to Meyer, who I hope more fully represents the values of his community than today’s young bullies did.
World Edition - The Atlantic
Trump’s ‘Major’ Border Deal Is No Deal for Democrats   
The 29th day of the partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, has been virtually indistinguishable from the first.On Saturday, President Donald Trump entered the Diplomatic Reception room in the White House to reveal the “major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border” he had teased on Twitter on Friday. In some respects, it could be viewed as a major step toward ending the shutdown, with Trump outlining a new proposal to break a logjam that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay. And yet in other ways—with Democratic leaders roundly rejecting the plan before it was even aired—it may as well have never happened.The White House proposed three years of protection for two categories of immigrants. The first group comprises about 700,000 young adults, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children without authorization; they had been protected by DACA, the Obama-era program that Trump sought to end before federal courts intervened. The second category, Temporary Protected Status, covers people who were allowed to move to the United States after disasters hit their home countries; Trump has similarly sought to cut back these protections only to see his actions stopped in court.In addition to three years of protection for Dreamers and TPS recipients, Trump also proposed $800 million for humanitarian assistance, presumably to the Central American countries where poverty and violence push migrants to leave for the United States; $805 million for drug-detection technology at the border; an additional 2,750 Border Patrol and law-enforcement agents; 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce the backlog of nearly a million cases, and a system for Central American minors to apply for asylum from their home countries.And perhaps most important, the White House’s offer includes $5.7 billion for "strategic deployment of physical barriers, or, a wall”—the price tag that in many ways catalyzed the current impasse."This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea," he said. "These are steel barriers in high-priority locations" covering about another 230 miles of the southern border.Trump cast his proposal as a medium-term stopgap that buys time for Congress to negotiate a full-scale immigration reform package, the sort of compromise that has eluded lawmakers for more than a decade. (In February, Democrats offered $25 billion for wall funding in return for a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, but the deal crumbled when Trump insisted upon further cuts to legal immigration.) A source familiar with the ongoing negotiations said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have the latest White House’s proposal ready for a floor vote by next week.But a proposal that offers only temporary protections for DACA and TPS recipients—without a path to citizenship—has historically been viewed as a non-starter by most Democrats, in part because it was Trump himself who has tried to revoke protections for both. And sure enough, as details of the president’s offer leaked out ahead of his address on Saturday, Democrats were quick to pour cold water on it. “Initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement before Trump’s remarks. “For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports.”“It’s clear the President realizes that by closing the government and hurting so many American workers and their families, he has put himself and the country in an untenable position,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement following the president’s address. “Unfortunately, he keeps putting forward one-sided and ineffective remedies. There’s only way out: open up the government, Mr. President, and then Democrats and Republicans can have a civil discussion and come up with bipartisan solutions.”Trump’s offer changes nothing, Democrats concluded. They remained firm in their demand that the president first reopen the government before entertaining further talks on immigration policy. “His ‘major announcement’ was just the exact same racist demand for a wall,” said one House aide, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. “Let his legacy be two more years of closed government if he won’t be reasonable.”But Republicans were nonplussed by Democrats’ swift refusal. According to multiple GOP lawmakers and aides, party leaders are newly confident that blame for the shutdown—which polling thus far has shown sits mostly with the president—will shift to Democratic leaders. The way Republicans see it, the White House is attempting to engage in good-faith negotiations with a party whose members still refuse to come to the table (quite literally, they point out, reiterating that moderate House Democrats all rebuffed Trump’s lunch invitation to discuss the shutdown last week). The onus, they said, is now on Democrats either to advance Trump’s proposal or counter it with their own—simply rebuking it, they feel, is no longer politically viable.“The question they never answer is what is their offer, and when will they come back to table to deliver it?” Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, a moderate Republican who engaged in talks with the White House last week, told The Atlantic.And even conservative lawmakers, who’ve traditionally been a hard sell on legislative deals that included protections for DACA recipients, praised the president for attempting to move negotiations forward. “This is the latest and most significant step yet of POTUS showing his willingness to negotiate and compromise with Democrats on the issue of wall funding,” House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a close ally of Trump’s, tweeted. “At this point, if Democrats refuse to come to the table, it will show they are not at all serious about solving this impasse.”The source familiar with the negotiations told The Atlantic the White House’s offer began to come together shortly after Pelosi proposed postponing Trump’s State of the Union address, originally scheduled to take place on January 29. It was then that McConnell, the source said, urged Trump to announce a comprehensive offer to end the shutdown—and quickly. “The leader said to POTUS, ‘Start thinking about what you want to do to shake things up.’ Because it was clear to him then that Democrats just weren’t going to move.”So on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner met with McConnell in his Capitol Hill office to begin ironing out the proposal. The source said the meeting was publicized intentionally, as a way to showcase the White House’s continued efforts to reach a solution in the midst of the standstill.But, even in the lead-up to Saturday’s remarks, Democrats felt that the administration’s efforts were disingenuous, as they’d rejected similar offers from the administration in the past. And several took issue with the president framing it as a bipartisan solution, when Democrats hadn’t been consulted on the proposal beforehand.“We’re bad at negotiating, but we’re not that bad,” said one House Democratic staffer. If the president had instead offered a more permanent solution—say, a pledge to sign the DREAM Act, a measure first introduced in 2001 that would allow undocumented immigrants who attend college or serve in the military to eventually gain legal status—Democrats might have been on board, the source said.Saturday concluded as yet another day in which several things happened—a televised address, a flurry of statements from lawmakers and aides—but nothing changed. Ultimately, for all the dressings of a shiny new proposal, the White House’s request for $5.7 billion for a border wall stayed firm. And it’s unclear whether Democrats plan to respond to Trump’s offer with a proposal of their own, or whether their demand that the White House reopen the government sans a new immigration policy remains absolute, like their opposition to the wall.Early signs indicate that it will.“Democrats,” as one senior House Democratic aide told The Atlantic, “are not willing to negotiate at gunpoint.”
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World Edition - The Atlantic
The President’s Hostage Attempt Is Going Miserably Wrong
President Donald Trump is trapped. He shut the government to impose his will on the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. That plan has miserably failed. Instead, Trump has found himself caught in the trap he supposed he had set for his opponents.Now he is desperately seeking an exit.Trump attempted Exit One on January 8. He spoke that evening to the nation from the Oval Office, hoping to mobilize public opinion behind him, pressing the Democratic leadership of the House to yield to him. That hope was miserably disappointed. Surveys post-speech found that Trump had swayed only 2 percent of TV viewers. In the 10 days since the speech, Trump’s approval ratings have dipped to about the lowest point in his presidency. The supposedly solid Trump base has measurably softened.Having failed to convince the public, Trump is now trying Exit Two. This idea is even more harebrained than the last, if that is even possible. Instead of appealing in prime time to the whole nation, Trump on Saturday afternoon advanced a detailed set of proposals intended to shift a critical mass of backbench Democrats to break with their leadership and deal directly with him. You don’t need to do much more than articulate the idea out loud to appreciate its utter unrealism.The Democratic majority is newly elected and highly cohesive. Why on earth would any appreciable number of Democrats break away from their leadership to do business as individuals with a president none of them trusts about an issue none of them thinks should be negotiable, reopening the government? They will not do it, and it should have been obviously predictable from the start that they would not do it. Trump could not even get moderate Democrats to come have lunch with him at the White House this week. How could he imagine that a TV talk would entice them to break ranks and destroy their own political future within their party?The president will gain some immediate validation from his closed information system. Fox News, and talk radio, and MAGA Twitter will rant enjoyably about how mean it is for Democrats to reject Trump’s latest self-help scheme. That will be nice for the president to hear. But Fox News, and talk radio, and MAGA Twitter cannot protect him from the real-world consequences of the shutdown he forced. They cannot erase the video showing Trump proudly talking about how he would be the one to do it. They cannot sustain his poll numbers among the large majority of America that is non-Fox, non-MAGA.The sometimes Trump ally Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Saturday afternoon that it is not reasonable for Democrats to demand unconditional surrender by the president. But it was Trump who rejected the path of compromise when he shut down the government.The shutdown was a demand for unconditional surrender. Unfortunately for him, the president lacks the political realism to recognize that he doesn’t have the clout to impose that surrender. He’s the one who will now have to climb down, and very soon, probably within days. The end of a hostage taking is not a surrender. But it will surely feel that way to the hostage taker—and deservedly, too.
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World Edition - The Atlantic
The Atlantic Daily: The Next Few Decades of Climate Policy
What We’re FollowingNewly empowered progressive legislators and activists have set their sights on a Green New Deal to fight climate change and decarbonize the economy. But the devil is in the details, and a plan released late last week by some 600 environmental groups includes opposition to nuclear power and carbon capture—two tools without which it will be virtually impossible to meet any of the mid-century climate goals.President Trump allegedly directed his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie in front of Congress in order to hide his pursuit of a real-estate project in Moscow, according to a report by BuzzFeed News. Adam Serwer writes that the news, if true, is different from past charges: “The only defense of Trump’s conduct is an imperial, Nixonian conception of the presidency—that nothing the president could do is illegal.” Democrats in Congress seem to be taking that message to heart, as the report looks to be an inflection point that could lead them to push forward with impeachment proceedings even before the end of the Russia investigation.Last week, the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton premiered in Puerto Rico, the ancestral home of the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. But the drama surrounding the long-anticipated opening rivaled that of the musical itself. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Hamilton in Puerto Rico became a fundraising venture to help support the island. But Miranda’s past support of budget-reducing measures on the island led to threats of a mass protest at the planned theater at the University of Puerto Rico, so the show was moved to another location.— Saahil DesaiEvening Read(Illustration: Pete Ryan)What is life like with a severe corn allergy? It isn’t just popcorn or corn tortillas that become forbidden: It’s everything from some salts (table salt has dextrose, a sugar derived from corn) to milk (added vitamins processed with corn derivatives) to any of the vast varieties of foods that contain corn derivatives. → Read the story.Unthinkable(Patrick Semansky / AP)Unthinkable is The Atlantic’s catalog of 50 incidents from the first two years of President Trump’s first term in office, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance.At No. 1: Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated. Join the conversation: Which moments from the Trump presidency would you add to this list? Email us at letters@theatlantic.com with the subject line “Unthinkable,” and include your full name, city, and state. Or tweet using the hashtag #TrumpUnthinkable. Dr. Brian P. H. Green of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, writes: “Reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece, and then the subsequent 50 unthinkable moments, it becomes clear that it is not the bending of norms that should have us alarmed—it is our incremental desensitization to what constitutes a norm at all.”→ Read more reader-suggested moments here.Poem of the WeekThe beloved poet Mary Oliver died this week at age 83. Here is one of our favorite Oliver poems, “The Loon on Oak-Head Pond,” from our July 1988 issue, a year in which our magazine—and the U.S.—was focused on a presidential election. Tap here to read the full poem.See more of the July 1988 issue in which the poem appears, here.Urban DevelopmentsOur partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing city dwellers around the world. Gracie McKenzie shares their top stories: Millions of Americans rely on tax refunds through the Earned Income Tax Credit. Those families are the first to file. And they spend their refunds right away—often on food or overdue bills (like heat). This year, those refunds might be very late. Like Confederate monuments, President Trump’s vision of a massive wall along the Mexican border is about propaganda and racial oppression, designer Brian Lee Jr. writes: not national security. Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement. Here's what they're currently getting wrong.For more updates like these from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s Daily newsletter. Looking for our daily mini crossword? Try your hand at it here—the puzzle gets more difficult through the week. Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Email Shan Wang at swang@theatlantic.com. Did you get this newsletter from a friend? Sign yourself up.
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World Edition - The Atlantic