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2018-07-22T08:45:00.504Z
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The summer of Elon Musk making headlines for his controversial tweets continues apace, and the last several days have been particularly scorching. This time, the topic was Musk’s attempt to help rescue the teenage soccer players and their coach trapped in a Thailand cave.

Musk was met with skepticism from Vernon Unsworth, a British diver involved in the rescue. Unsworth was then himself met with accusations of pedophilia from Musk, who faced widespread backlash and quickly apologized.

“[H]is actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader,” Musk tweeted on Wednesday. “The fault is mine and mine alone.”

It all gets weirder. Directly beneath that tweet appeared another, ostensibly from Musk. “I’ll make sure that my actions, present and future, won’t ever affect anyone in a bad way. I hope that we, as a community, will be as open-minded and as friendly to each other as possible,” it said. “I have also prepared something exciting to ease the tension.” A link to a post on Blogger. Send me a little bit of cryptocurrency, the post said, and I’ll send you a lot more back. One participant would be eligible to win a Tesla. The post was signed “Elon.”

Huh, I thought, what a strange way to apologize. I sent the tweet to a fellow reporter. “Oh lol,” she said. “Those are fake Elon accounts.”

I went back to Twitter and clicked through. The...

This Week in Family

Why does Mom Tiger on the children’s show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood wear pants, while Daniel Tiger and his dad don’t? Ashley Fetters, an Atlantic staff writer, talked to the show’s creator, Angela Santomero, about this mystery, as well as how the beloved show carries on the legacy of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“We know we have a responsibility, and an opportunity,” Santomero told Fetters of the show, “to do some stories you might not be able to do on other shows because of the level of bonding that Daniel has with our audience and the fact that parents really trust us.” Daniel Tiger has helped introduce children to, among other things, death, natural disasters, and first visits to the dentist.


Other Highlights

Despite the proliferation of pornography of all kinds, the sexual fantasies of Americans today are pretty tame, according to the largest-ever research project on sexual fantasy and desire. The researcher Justin Lehmiller conducted an online survey on sexual fantasy with the help of social media, and many of his findings contradict long-held stereotypes about sexual fantasy. For example, nine out of 10 Americans surveyed reported that they had fantasized about their current partners. “We’re not trying to replace our partners,” Lehmiller told Ashley Fetters for her piece on the study. “We’re just trying to amp our sex life up a little bit.”


Dear Therapist

Every Wednesday, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions about life’s trials and tribulations, big or small, in The Atlantic’s “Dear...

If you watched the body language of President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, at their recent summit in Helsinki, you might have wondered: Which man leads a superpower? After all, Trump represents a country that is far stronger than Putin’s Russia. This is the paradox of Russian power—Moscow is influential precisely because it’s weak.

We often take it for granted that the greater a country’s economic and military resources, the greater its influence. But more capabilities doesn’t always mean getting your way, because they inspire resistance from other countries. Sometimes David has more sway that Goliath.

At the height of the Cold War, in the 1960s and ’70s, the Soviet Union was a genuine global power, boasting the largest military in the world, a GDP about half that of America’s, and an empire stretching across Eastern Europe. Moscow wasn’t shy about using these resources to bribe, bully, intimidate, and, if necessary, topple its enemies.

But oftentimes, Soviet strength didn’t mean influence—it meant resistance. Soviet power was the glue that bound the Western alliance together. The Red Army, camped barely 100 miles from the Rhine River, triggered the creation of the nato alliance, and helped spur the formation of the European Union. Soviet capabilities also rallied people within Western countries. In the United States, Democrats and Republicans joined together to back a global effort to contain communism.

When Moscow flexed its muscles and invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Soviet influence didn’t expand. Instead, the intervention spurred a coalition of resistance...

LOS ANGELES—If any proof were still needed that California is ground zero of the “Resistance”—not just to Donald Trump, but to establishment politics as usual—it came crashing along this week when the executive committee of the state Democratic Party endorsed Kevin de León, the comparatively obscure former leader of the state Senate, over Dianne Feinstein, the iconic 25-year incumbent, for the U.S. Senate.

Never mind that Feinstein crushed de León in the state’s “jungle primary” last month, winning 2.9 million votes to his 804,000 in a system that sends the top two finishers to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Never mind that the activist membership of the party committee and de León’s labor-union base do not reflect the broader Democratic electorate, or that Feinstein remains the prohibitive favorite to win in the fall. The state party’s liberal, anti-establishment wing is already winning the future.

“This is Kevin de León’s Democratic Party,” says Dan Schnur, a veteran political strategist who has worked for Republicans from John McCain to former Governor Pete Wilson, but now considers himself an Independent. “The only question is how much longer Dianne Feinstein is allowed to remain part of it.”

Over the past 20 years, California has become such reliably blue territory that not a single Republican holds statewide office. And just as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sui generis ascendancy a decade ago obscured the Republican Party’s inherent political and demographic weakness in the state, Jerry Brown’s successful tour of duty in Sacramento has suppressed, or at least...

This story contains some spoilers for the film Blindspotting.

Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs believe the right words can dress wounds. The Oakland-bred duo, who wrote and co-star in the new movie, Blindspotting, speak of poetry as both craft and balm.

Directed by Carlos López Estrada, Blindspotting is half social drama, half choreopoem. The film follows two lifelong best friends, Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal), as they adjust to changes in their immediate lives and in the city that shaped them. Blindspotting’s protagonists have grown alongside one another for years, but the story finds them—and a rapidly gentrifying Oakland—at a crossroads.The film oozes with Bay Area vitality. It booms and rattles. It bounces and bends. Oakland is both backdrop and character.

Blindspotting could have easily dramatized the gore of the violence its characters witness and enact; but it differs from other works that address similar subjects (police brutality, gentrification) in its choice of form. Casal and Diggs, who pull from backgrounds in poetry and music, imbue the film with a distinctly rhythmic cadence. The poetry of their characters’ friendship is a constant refrain. Collin and Miles speak in ciphers; their banter is layered, complex, lyrical. The way the two men wrap language through, around, and between the difficult moments in their lives is at once reflective of their upbringing and of the depth of the traumas they face.

In one of Blindspotting’s first scenes, Collin witnesses a white police officer fatally shoot a young black man. With three...

Given my druthers, NFL players returning to the gridiron this fall would restart their protests against unjust police killings in a new way: They would stand tall during the national anthem while conspicuously holding mini flagpoles with a trio of tiny banners: the Stars and Stripes on top, signifying their patriotism, Black Lives Matter in the middle, signifying their cause, and beneath it a flag declaring, “Donald Trump = cowardly identity politics + political correctness.”

That equation would be substantively justified by the president’s push to have NFL players punished by their employers for engaging in political speech—an action that no elected official should ever take—and his reason for doing so: the political gains he expects if he can stoke ethnic tensions and polarization around a racially tinged debate just as the nation is preparing to vote in this fall’s midterm elections.

Trump may well get his way.

“Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem could be suspended for up to four games under a team policy issued this week,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday. “Miami’s anthem policy comes after the NFL decided in May that teams would be fined if players didn’t stand during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ while on the field. The league left it up to teams on how to punish players. None of the team policies have been made public.” That story prompted the NFL to announce a temporary freeze on the enforcement of its new policy, until it can come...

Israel passed a law this week that has been floating around the Knesset for a half-dozen years. Branded the “nation-state bill,” the legislation declares that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It establishes Hebrew as the official language of Israel and downgrades Arabic to a language with “special status,” even though many people in Israel’s sizeable Arab minority primarily speak in Arabic. The law also asserts that Jewish settlement—without specifying where—is a national value, and promises to encourage and advance settlement efforts.

Some liberal Jews, especially outside of Israel, are outraged. “The damage that will be done by this new nation-state law to the legitimacy of the Zionist vision … is enormous,” wrote Rick Jacobs, the head of the U.S.-based Union for Reform Judaism, in a press release. J Street, a liberal Zionist organization, called it “a sad day for Israel and all who care about its democracy and its future.”

The law is controversial because it inflames the core tension in Israel’s identity. The country was established as a democracy—and a model of Western, liberal values—but it’s also premised on Jewish identity. In a state established as the national homeland of the Jews, it was never entirely clear what rights non-Jewish minorities should be assigned, and Israel has been arguing with itself over how to balance these identities since it was founded. Critics, especially Jews in diaspora, see...

One month ago, Anita and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were separated at U.S.-Mexico border. “I haven’t talked to him—I know nothing about my son,” says Anita in this trailer for an upcoming Atlantic original documentary. “This whole thing is a nightmare.”

But pro bono attorney Jodi Goodwin is fighting for Anita. The film, premiering in August, follows Goodwin as she leads a team of lawyers pressing the government to reunite the more than 2,500 children still separated from their parents— including Anita’s son.

For more reporting from the border, read “Nine Days of Agony” and watch “Kids Describe the Fear of Separation at the Border.”

What We’re Following

Helsinki Fallout: The defense of the Kremlin that President Donald Trump offered at his press conference with Vladimir Putin this week might even be “the most bizarre and troubling utterance by any chief executive in American history,” Todd S. Purdum argues. Yet Putin’s performance didn’t necessarily benefit his country either. For their part, the American intelligence officials who gathered this week at the Aspen Security Forum are standing by their assessment of Russian election interference. Here’s how they’ve reacted to Trump’s comments this week.

Democrats’ Regrets: Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez kicked off a fund-raising event in Atlanta by apologizing to black voters—one of the party’s core constituencies—for taking them for granted in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s unexpected victory has provoked a reckoning for Democratic leaders. But as Vann R. Newkirk II writes, a recent speech by former President Barack Obama suggests that he, at least, still doesn’t understand his successor.

Identity Issues: A spat between the Daily Show host Trevor Noah and France’s ambassador to the U.S. points to the gaps between French and American views of identity politics. Noah had made a comment on his show to celebrate the African heritage of France’s World Cup–winning soccer players, many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants. In light of France’s fraught colonial legacy and Europe’s current debate over immigration, their victory carries weighty and complicated symbolism.

Rosa Inocencio Smith


Snapshot

After a tumultuous week, The New York Times reported on Friday that the FBI has in its possession tape-recorded conversations between attorney Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump in September 2016. In one of the conversations, the two men can be heard discussing potential hush-money payments to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, with whom Trump had an affair. CNN reportedthat the FBI had also seized recordings of other, “more mundane” conversations with the president.

The revelation of the tapes comes almost 45 years after the most famous secret presidential tape revelation of all—the moment on July 16, 1973, when the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and former deputy assistant to the president, Alexander Buttterfield, told the Senate Select Watergate Committee in a televised hearing that President Richard Nixon had recorded his Oval Office conversations. The tapes helped bring an end to Nixon’s presidency. This time, Cohen’s tapes probably won’t have the same effect.

The Watergate Committee, chaired by the folksy North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, had started its televised hearings in May. Throughout the summer, the nation had been riveted as the senators questioned administration officials about what Nixon’s White House had been up to. The most dramatic testimony took place in late June, when former White House Counsel John Dean said that Nixon had discussed methods to cover-up information and even stifle the investigation through “silence money” and promises of clemency.

But Republican support for the president remained strong and the idea of impeachment remained far-fetched. Even...

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)


Today in 5 Lines
  • President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen reportedly recorded Trump before the 2016 election discussing payments to an ex-Playboy model who claimed they’d had an affair.

  • The White House said Trump “is not considering supporting” a referendum on independence for eastern Ukraine that was suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Helsinki.

  • Ohio State University announced that more than 100 former students have made sexual-misconduct allegations against Richard Strauss, a former wrestling-team doctor.

  • Police said at least 17 people were killed after a duck boat capsized during a storm in Branson, Missouri.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told Republicans that if Democrats continue demanding records about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, McConnell will wait to hold a confirmation vote until right before the midterms.


Today on The Atlantic
  • Changing Their Tune: A new talking point has bubbled up among some supporters of President Trump, writes McKay Coppins: “It was a positive thing that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.”

  • African or French?: A spat between Daily Show host Trevor Noah and French Ambassador Gérard Araud reveals a divide between the French and American conceptions of identity politics. (Rachel Donadio)

  • Everything Is Fine: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has emerged as a warrior in President Trump’s culture war, operating under a shocking assumption: “There are things that are more important than truth.” (Megan Garber)

ATLANTA—Swanky fundraisers don’t often begin with an apology to the well-heeled donors who shelled out thousands to sip wine, eat steak, and listen to pep-rally speeches. But as he looked out over a predominantly black crowd gathered at the Georgia Aquarium on Thursday night, Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, felt compelled to issue a mea culpa.

“I am sorry,” Perez said.

At first, it seemed like Perez was voicing one more generalized regret for the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House—the squandered opportunity that abruptly ended the Democrats’ hold on the presidency and immediately put at risk its policy gains of the previous eight years.

Perez, however, soon made clear that his apology was much more specific. “We lost elections not only in November 2016, but we lost elections in the run-up because we stopped organizing,” he said. “We stopped talking to people.

“We took too many people for granted,” Perez continued, “and African Americans—our most loyal constituency—we all too frequently took for granted. That is a shame on us, folks, and for that I apologize. And for that I say, it will never happen again!”

Applause broke out before Perez could even finish his apology, heads nodding in acknowledgment and appreciation.

That he would choose this event, and this city, to try to make amends with black voters was significant. Thursday’s gala was the party’s first major 2018 fundraiser to be held outside Washington, and the IWillVote initiative it supported aims to bolster DNC efforts to register new...

Barack Obama doesn’t often mention Donald Trump. More than anything else, that has been a constant in his random assortment of public appearances and statements since he left the White House. Even when he has occasionally answered the call from Americans to show leadership during a Trumpian scandal or crisis, Obama has preferred magnanimity, issuing statements exhorting his countrymen to soldier on and praising the goodness of the institutions they must lean on to do so.

In a week featuring perhaps the gravest controversy of Trump’s young term, the fallout over his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama delivered the apotheosis of that post-presidency form. His speech Tuesday in Johannesburg, at South Africa’s annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, was the most important moment of his career as a not-so-elder statesman. It was a marathon address that outlined a grand theory of liberalism and skewered Trump’s recent moves without once saying the man’s name. But it also highlighted one of Obama’s most enduring weaknesses: that he still doesn’t really understand Trump, or the forces that elected him.

The stage couldn’t have been set more perfectly for Obama’s big moment. On Monday, Trump managed to create one of the biggest firestorms of his presidency during a press conference with Putin. In a barely coherent series of responses, Trump declined to say whether he trusted his own intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. After facing fierce criticism from even his Republican allies on the Hill, Trump...

Splashing in New York City, deadly protests in Nicaragua, a reunited migrant family in Texas, tornado damage in Iowa, mammoth transport in Austria, prayers for rain in India, meat-eating plants in Colombia, France wins the World Cup in Russia, and much more.

“What the fuck is the Meghalayan?” asked Ben van der Pluijm, a geologist.

Whatever the Meghalayan is, we live in it now.

Earlier this week, the International Commission on Stratigraphy announced that the current stretch of geological time, the Holocene Epoch, would be split into three subdivisions.

This is particularly noteworthy to the human species, as we have been living in the Holocene for the last 12,000 years. After this announcement, we still live in that epoch, but we also live in the youngest of these new subdivisions: the Meghalayan Age.

This new slice of time started roughly 4,250 years ago and extends to the present. In other words, we have been living in the Meghalayan for quite a long time, even if it didn’t have a formal name.

For decades, this has been the kind of technical declaration that even most geologists could safely ignore.

But lately, the study of geological timescales has attracted far more public attention—and scholarly f-bombs. Stratigraphy, the effort to name and describe rock layers, has become the site of a proxy battle over climate change, environmental change, and how deeply the natural sciences should integrate with history and politics.

The International Commission on Stratigraphy, or ICS, is the global governing body that formally names geological eras, associating each rock layer with a specific stretch of time. For instance, the ICS formally named and identified the Jurassic, to the immense benefit of paleontologists and fictional theme-park developers everywhere.

Stratigraphers...

Hesitance mixed with fear—that’s the feeling the Trump-Putin meeting was met with by the liberal circles in Moscow, or what was left of them by now. The country has been hemorrhaging its best and brightest ever since Putin returned triumphantly to the Kremlin in 2012.

Since then, the liberal middle classes have steadily lost influence in the face of powerful Kremlin propaganda. Democratic values and fighting corruption didn’t sound as appealing as the resurgence of the great Russian empire. The horrors of the Syrian war were played skillfully against protesters in Moscow: “We know what the revolution is like—do we want bloodshed on our streets?” was a constant refrain on Russian TV. The propaganda was supplemented by selective repression; the government had learned back in the Soviet times that patriotism is a meal best served with fear.

But the liberals and Western-oriented intellectuals also lost because a set of rational arguments suddenly ceased to work. They argued that a country with a relatively weak economy couldn’t start a war and get away without consequences. But Putin started a war in Ukraine, and the Western sanctions didn’t achieve their desired effect on the Russian economy. Putin simply gave businesses more contracts from the military-industrial complex, securing their loyalty and tying them with secrecy.

Many pro-Kremlin political technologists argued with the Kremlin, politely, that it was too risky to give up the government’s monopoly on violence and have all kind of adventurers take up arms and go to Ukraine. It couldn’t end well—and it...

There’s perhaps no type of movie that’s harder to make than a sincere one. Not a film that’s sappy or cheerful or relentlessly emotional, but one that tries to make a genuine and powerful point about the way of the world. Carlos López Estrada’s directorial debut Blindspotting is a lot of things—it’s an anarchic buddy comedy, a sly satire of gentrification, and a sober drama about an African American man trying to carve out a life after being released from prison. But more than anything, it’s a deeply earnest work, written by its two stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal as both a love letter to their hometown of Oakland and as an anguished cry over the state of race relations there.

That heart-on-sleeve storytelling is Blindspotting’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness; it’s what makes the movie so magnetic at times and so awkward at others. Still, in a year of debut films trying to grapple with America in innovative ways (like Sorry to Bother You and Eighth Grade), Blindspotting is another strong effort that’s well worth seeing. It also marks a particularly exciting movie-star moment for Diggs, who won a Tony for his performance in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton.

Before Diggs collaborated with Miranda, he and Casal met as members of the Bay Area’s spoken-word scene. The two wrote Blindspotting together and play its lead characters—Collin (Diggs), an ex-con living in an Oakland halfway house with three days left on his parole, and Miles (Casal), his...

ASPEN, Colo.—With many of the nation’s leading national-security experts gathered here this week, the tension between President Trump and several of his highest-ranking intelligence and law-enforcement officials was hard to miss. Speaking at the annual conference, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence didn’t deny that they had considered resigning over Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community. The deputy attorney general announced a new Justice Department policy to expose and counter foreign-influence operations of the kind Trump has consistently downplayed. And the Homeland Security secretary said she did “not disagree” when asked about the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to elect Trump.

The security forum began two days after Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and touched off a furor by equating the intelligence community’s assessment with Putin’s reassurances that there had been no election attack. Back in Washington, Trump generated more confusion when he seemed to answer “no” when asked by a reporter if Moscow is still targeting the U.S. (The White House later said he wasn’t answering the question, but rather declining to take media inquiries.) “He's got his view,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking at the forum. “He's expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community's assessment has not changed, my view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

The officials’ public remarks repeatedly validated intelligence...

The peninsula northwest of the industrial city of Antofagasta, on Chile’s northern desert coast, is haloed with seabirds in flight. Pelicans lumber past wheeling gulls. Flocks of boobies cut the haze around Punta Tetas—Tits Point—like an avian punchline.

Farther from shore, where the inappropriately named Pacific begins its wild pitch and yaw, is the domain of the order Procellariiformes: birds with long, hooked bills and tubular nostrils that spend most of their lives above the open ocean. The largest of these are the albatrosses, soarers with severe brows and stiff, straight wings that span several feet. The smallest—small enough to hold in one hand—are the storm petrels. Most of the storm petrels that ply the air off this coast are brownish-black, with crescents of lighter feathers across their shoulders and the erratic flight patterns of a bat. When they drop to the water’s surface to dip mouthfuls of food, they seem to run across it. This habit inspired the name of the birds’ original taxonomic family, recently split into two: Hydrobatidae, meaning water walkers.

The Spanish name for storm petrels is golondrinas de mar, or golondrinas de la tempestad—“swallows of sea,” “swallows of storm.” Sailors of old thought they heralded bad weather, and called them “Mother Carey’s chickens,” emissaries carrying warnings from the Virgin Mary or ship-sinking gales from darker spirits.

Among these far-flying little birds, one can be particularly difficult to find: the ringed storm petrel, Oceanodroma hornbyi. It has dark wings with white half-moons, like the...

The numbers are staggering: White Americans with a college degree are on average three times as wealthy as black Americans with the same credential, and in families where the head of the household is employed, white families have 10 times the wealth of black ones. One estimate on the conservative end suggested that this wealth gap could take two centuries to close.

And the thing about wealth, says Tatjana Meschede, a researcher at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, is that it’s “sticky”: It tends to stay with a family. That has serious repercussions for how much money people accumulate over the course of their lives, regardless of whether they attend college—something that is usually thought to make a significant difference financially.

A forthcoming study from Meschede and Joanna Taylor, also a researcher at Brandeis, in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, makes the point clearly. Building on a 2017 study of theirs that examined wealth accumulation among college graduates—as well as “intergenerational financial transfers,” like when a parent helps a recent college grad out with rent, or, say, gives her $1,000 a month to spend on whatever she pleases—the two looked specifically at how family inheritances, which are usually larger and tend to come all at once, factor into building and maintaining wealth.

The two researchers focused specifically on inheritances among families where at least one parent has a college degree. They looked at families like this in order to...