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2018-01-18T07:58:07.987Z
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Edward Cullen. Chuck Bass. Lloyd Dobler. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That guy from Love Actually with the sign. The lead singers of emo bands with their brooding lyrics. Many of the romantic heroes that made me swoon in my youth followed a pattern and, like a Magic Eye picture, only with a little distance did the shape of it pop out to me. All of these characters in some way crossed, or at least blurred, the lines of consent, aggressively pursuing women with little or no regard for their desires. But these characters’ actions, and those of countless other leading men across the pop-culture landscape, were more likely to be portrayed as charming than scary.

Romance often involves a bit of pursuit—someone has to make a move, after all. And there’s certainly a spectrum of pursuit: Sometimes supposedly romantic gestures in pop culture veer toward the horrendous or illegal; sometimes they’re just a bit creepy or overzealous. But revisiting some of these fictional love stories can leave one with the understanding that intrusive attention is proof of men’s passion, and something women should welcome. In a number of cases, male characters who were acknowledged to have gone too far—by, for example, actually forcing themselves on women—were quickly forgiven, or their actions compartmentalized and forgotten.

I grew up watching movies in which women found it flattering when their pursuers showed up uninvited to hold a boombox under their window, or broke into their bedrooms to watch...

The No. 2 song in the country, Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” stands out in the charts in a few ways. There’s the sauntering, salsa-adjacent piano line. There’s the fact that Havana gets rhymed with East Atlanta repeatedly. And there’s Cabello’s singing, sultry but also unconcerned. It’s like she’s telling a story while lying on the couch and fiddling with her phone. Yet she’s also enunciating comprehensibly and staying locked to the rhythm. The hook trails off: “Na na na.” The topic is hot romance; the delivery is cool.

Cabello herself, at 20, stands out in the pop landscape for a few reasons. After leaving the world-conquering girl group Fifth Harmony under less-than-harmonious circumstances, she’ll be running the test of whether she can make like Beyoncé or Justin Timberlake and launch a solo career. As a Cuban American whose “Havana” took off during the reign of the historic Spanish-language hit “Despacito,” she’ll be held up as a leader in a new Latin pop crossover moment. But her debut, Camila, isn’t overpowered by the media narratives around it. It’s first a quality product of the modern pop machine, showing that the mood of the moment—understatement—can be reconciled with slick, singalong fun.

Anyone trying to describe the sound of the charts lately has to end up using words like hazy, drowsy, and gloomy. That musical mode’s arrival has correlated with the downfall of some big-lunged divas who once ruled. Theoretically, this would pose a problem for Fifth Harmony, essentially a...

Since the fall, the staggering cascade of sexual-misconduct allegations waged against powerful men—from Hollywood moguls to prominent politicians—has mostly centered on the workplace. But as the nation fixated on the downfalls of Harvey Weinstein, John Conyers, and countless others, what has come to be known as the #MeToo movement has been reverberating on college campuses across the country, too.

Students flooded social-media feeds with their own stories; university leaders condemned sexual harassment in emails and announcements. Amelia Goldberg, a junior at Harvard College and member of the student-run anti-sexual-violence group Our Harvard Can Do Better, described the experience on campus to me as a “collective airing of trauma.”

The Harvard Crimson last month reported that the institution has seen a 20 percent increase in sexual-harassment complaints since the allegations against Weinstein surfaced in October. Bill McCants, who oversees the office charged with handling claims of harassment at Harvard, attributed that rise at least in part to the #MeToo movement, citing conversations he had with students. Other schools’ Title IX officers, who are tasked with ensuring that colleges are in compliance with the federal law that’s used to address sexual harassment, alluded to similar trends on their respective campuses. The officers, who often field sexual-harassment complaints, told me anecdotally that they’ve seen more students come forward with stories of assault in the post-Weinstein era than they did in the past. Comprehensive empirical data on recent sexual-harassment reporting rates aren’t yet available because the institutions generally don’t collect and...

When then-14-year-old Jonas Bridges ran down the stairs of his Atlanta home shouting, “Dad, I’ve got 1,000 fans!” his father, Rob Bridges, hardly took notice. A few days later Jonas barreled into the living room again, saying, “Dad, I’ve got 3,000 fans now.” Again, his father brushed him off. Several days later, Jonas told his father, “I have 5,000 fans now and if I get to 10,000 I’ll get paid for it.” Finally, Rob Bridges turned to his wife and said, “Denise, what the hell is he talking about?”

What Jonas Bridges was trying to tell his father was that he was rapidly becoming famous on YouNow, a social video platform where he had begun hosting live-streams from his bedroom under the pseudonym “woahits_jonas.” Before his parents knew what was happening, Jonas had amassed an army of online fans for his vlogs and prank videos. Before they could grasp quite what his newfound fame meant, Jonas had begun raking in serious cash.

Jonas is just one of the many teens reaching unprecedented levels of fame via social media. Platforms like Musical.ly, Instagram, YouTube, YouNow, Periscope, and more allow anyone with a phone and internet access to build an audience, and today’s teens are spending more time on their phones than ever. Ninety-four percent of teens access the internet using their phone daily and 71 percent use more than one social-media platform, according to a 2016 Pew study. The vlogger-to-riches story has become so prevalent in teen culture that, according...

Nothing is more cyclical in Ali Smith’s half-finished quartet of seasonal novels than history, condemned to repeat itself over and over. In both 2017’s Autumn and this year’s Winter, Arthurian legend foreshadows Shakespeare, which predicts the horrors of World War II, whose traumas portend the anti-immigrant sentiment that led to Brexit. Somehow, though, there’s comfort as well as despair in the patterns of humanity. Arthur, a character in Winter, at one point cites the story of Cymbeline, “the one about poison, mess, bitterness, then the balance coming back. The lies revealed. The losses compensated.” If darkness is a constant in history, so is renewal.

Smith is conducting a remarkable experiment: responding to current events in something like real time, and creating works of fiction that are also kaleidoscopic investigations of British art and identity. Autumn, the first work in the quartet, was a dazzling, modernist feat of a novel, set amid the turmoil in Britain following the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, but jumping back and forth in time to explore the platonic relationship between Daniel Gluck, an elderly aesthete, and Elisabeth Demand, an art-history lecturer. Winter is set later that year, after the election of Donald Trump, in a political climate that seems even more chaotic. “God was dead: to begin with,” is how Smith begins. Romance is also apparently dead, as are chivalry, poetry, jazz, realism, history, decency, and family values. This bleak introduction is soon revealed to be one of Smith’s authorial tricks:...

Drip. Representative John Conyers. Drip. Senator Al Franken. Drip. Representative Joe Barton. Drip. Representative Trent Franks. Drip. Representative Blake Farenthold. Drip. Representative Ruben Kihuen. Drip?

Congress knows it has a sexual harassment problem. Big time. And members are braced for it to continue plaguing them through the midterms. For weeks, in fact, political Washington has been anxiously awaiting the Big Expose rumored to be in the works by a major news outlet—Politico? MSNBC? Ah, The Washington Post!—that will bust between two- and four-dozen lawmakers for varying degrees of piggishness.

Don’t hold your breath. The latest word is that a mass takedown is not happening: Vetting allegations against one or two members at a time is daunting enough; a few dozen would be madness. That said, there are naughty lists floating around, which reporters are diligently working through. So while the dam may not abruptly burst on congressional bad boys, the toxic trickle will likely keep on trickling.

The public is unamused. It’s the swamp at its swampiest, and neither team can risk looking insufficiently appalled. (Nothing focuses the political mind like a high-stakes election.) Thus has emerged a rare bipartisan push to address the Hill’s long-running freakshow of men behaving badly.

Hearings are being held. Experts are being consulted. Legislation is being crafted. In mid-November, a bipartisan group of House members introduced the Me Too Congress Act, spearheaded by Jackie Speier. Shortly before the December break, 20 Senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand, introduced a nearly identical bill...

Although the leaders of the white-supremacist alt-right insist their movement is nonviolent, racist rhetoric and hateful ideas can inspire violence if taken to their logical conclusion. A lone individual, encountering white-supremacist propaganda, can become convinced that it is a cause worth fighting for. Timothy McVeigh read The Turner Diaries, a story of a race war written by a notorious white supremacist, before he carried out the Oklahoma City bombings. Dylann Storm Roof frequented racist and anti-Semitic sites before he walked into an African American church and gunned down nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina.

And the threat they pose is not trivial. According to the latest data from Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, white supremacists were responsible for more than half of the 34 fatalities linked to domestic extremists of all stripes last year, claiming 18 lives in 2017.

That represented a reversion to the long-term trend; right-wing violence had accounted for the largest share of domestic-extremist related killings every year from 1995 until the Pulse nightclub shootings in 2016. Global totals may tell a very different story, but in the United States far-right extremist murders far exceed those carried out by Islamic extremists over the last decade: 71 percent of all murders were carried out by right-wing extremists, and 26 percent can be linked to Islamic extremists.

Two deadly shootings at the end of 2017 reinforced how the well-worn path from hate speech to action leads certain individuals to resort to lethal violence.

In Reston, Virginia, a teenager who...

During the first year of the Trump administration, the James Brady Briefing Room turned into an arena for excitement unseen since at least the days of Ron Ziegler. Yet Tuesday was still an especially surprising day—in large part because a White House official stepped to the lectern and proceeded to calmly, extensively, and openly answer questions at length from reporters.

That official was not Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, nor was it one of her deputies. It was the presidential physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, and his subject was President Trump’s Friday physical exam. The news was good for the president: Though Jackson said the president should lose some weight, he gave him a resounding bill of good health, as my colleague Julie Beck reports. He also announced that Trump had aced the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a common test for mental impairment; my colleague James Hamblin explains that. Best of all, Jackson even praised Trump’s good genes, matching something Trump has been saying for years.

It was just the sort of performance that Trump has reportedly long desired from his aides. Jackson was charismatic and chummy, persuasive and detailed with reporters, and perhaps most importantly, he defended Trump to the hilt. Yet it was also just what reporters wanted: An interlocutor who would patiently and forthrightly answer question after question, for nearly an hour, without recourse to transparent lies or browbeating or insistence that he could not speak for the president, the trademarks of Trump’s spokespeople.

Never before has...

What We’re Following

‘THIS IS NOT A DRILL’: A mistakenly sent emergency warning that a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii caused terror and anger among the state’s residents on Saturday morning. Alia Wong describes the scene. Officials said the alert went out because “somebody clicked the wrong thing on a computer.” The situation could have been worse—a cyberattack or a sensor error. Still, the fiasco highlights the flaws in an emergency-alert system that hasn’t fully caught up with current technology, as well as the high risks of miscalculation on an ever more volatile global stage.

The Oval Office: The White House physician said he had “no concerns” about President Trump’s cognitive condition after the president passed an exam commonly used to detect symptoms of dementia. Over the weekend, the president disputed reports that he’d described African nations as “shithole countries,” and bemoaned that he doesn’t receive more-positive coverage, illustrating how the strategy of obfuscation he’s used against political enemies hurts him. He also called for changes to the immigration system—but he rejected lawmakers’ most recent proposal. And as Congress approaches a funding deadline on Friday night, the federal government may be headed for a shutdown.

Contentious Case: The comedian Aziz Ansari became the latest prominent man to be accused of sexual misconduct in a viral story that described his aggressive behavior on a date with an acquaintance. Some commentators pointed to the story as an example of the #MeToo movement going...

On Tuesday, the White House physician Ronny L. Jackson announced the results of President Donald Trump’s annual physical at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. After a four-hour exam on Friday, Jackson found that “all clinical data indicates that the president is currently very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency.”

“He would benefit from a diet that is lower in fat and carbohydrates, and from a routine exercise regimen,” Jackson said. And Trump’s cholesterol is a little high. But he’s taking medication for that, and otherwise “his cardiac health is excellent.”

“He’s fit for duty,” Jackson said. “I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term, and even for the remainder of another term if he’s elected.”

This glowing bill of health is remarkable, not only for a man of Trump’s age—71, the oldest president ever to have served—but for a man of Trump’s habits. Trump has been reported to regularly eat junk food—and a lot of it. He avoids exercise other than golf, and has espoused the strange and incorrect view that exercise depletes the body’s energy. He also doesn’t get much sleep (leading to lots of late-night tweets). Some have even speculated from afar that Trump’s lack of sleep might be affecting his job performance.

Jackson acknowledged all of these bad habits. He said he was working with the president to improve his diet and exercise, with the goal being for Trump to...

Amid growing speculation about President Trump’s unfitness to hold the nuclear codes he has threatened to use, anyone who was suspicious that he could not identify a camel or draw the face of a clock can rest more easily tonight.

This afternoon the president’s physician, Navy Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, said that the president “did exceedingly well” on a test called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, reporting a score of 30 out of 30.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment is a 10-minute test. It’s one of the commonly used screening exams for dementia. The questions on the test vary in difficulty, but they include:

Six points for knowing the date and where you are.

One point if you can identify what a train and a bicycle have in common, and another for watch and ruler.

Three points for correctly identifying pictures of a lion, camel, and rhinoceros.

Another point if you can repeat the phrase “I only know that John is the one to help today.”

Another point if you can read the following letters: FBACMNAAJKLBAFAKDEAAAJAMOFAAB.

Three points if you can draw a clock that indicates the time “10 past 11.”

It would be extremely concerning if a president of the United States did poorly on this exam.

I could find no record of other sitting presidents having undergone this assessment. The process of assessing the fitness of the president is traditionally opaque. Even today, it was up to Trump to choose what parts of the physical exam were disclosed, and which weren’t. (To be...

Today in 5 Lines

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, lawmakers questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about a White House meeting where President Trump allegedly made vulgar comments about certain countries. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said the debate over Trump’s comments has become “a s-show,” and later told reporters that White House staffers gave the president “really bad advice” on immigration. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, was subpoenaed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury. The Justice Department announced it will ask the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that partially revived the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. White House Physician Ronny Jackson said Trump is in “excellent” health and that he has “no concerns” about the president’s cognitive ability.


Today on The Atlantic
  • The Story of ‘The New Colossus’: The sonnet inscribed on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty is widely quoted. But it’s also widely misunderstood. (Walt Hunter)

  • No Doctrine but Nullification: Vann R. Newkirk II writes that Donald Trump is the embodiment of five decades of resistance to the movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Tomato, Tomato: Does it matter whether President Trump used the word “shithole” or “shithouse” to describe certain countries? A linguist breaks down the uses of the two terms. (Ben Zimmer)

Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics...

Launched in 2011, NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter arrived in mid-2016, and the spacecraft maneuvered into a 53-day orbit around the gas giant. The JunoCam imaging instrument, one of nine scientific instruments on board, has been returning red, green, and blue filtered images of Jupiter to Earth, and NASA is encouraging anyone to download, process, and share them. Citizen scientists like Seán Doran and Gerald Eichstädt have been finessing these images,—enhancing the existing contrasts and boosting the colors to create really amazing views of our solar system’s largest planet. Cloudtops pop into view, swirls and structure and depth become more apparent, and the enormous roiling atmosphere seems almost within grasp. Many thanks to Seán Doran for sharing these images here, and to the teams involved in bringing them to Earth at NASA, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), and Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS). See also “The Photoshoppers Behind Dreamy Jupiter Photos” from November 2017.

Bitcoin is a bubble.

That much was clear to economists, investors, and analysts for quite some time. But one of the shortcomings of such analysis is that certainty of an economic bubble offers little insight on how, when, or why that bubble will pop. “I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending,” Warren Buffett said last week, to the great consternation of crypto fans. “When it happens or how or anything else, I don't know.”

Maybe—maybe—it’s finally happening.

The price of bitcoin plummeted by as much as 20 percent on Tuesday to $12,000, or about 40 percent below its all-time high in December. Other popular cryptocurrencies, like ethereum and Ripple, also posted double-digit losses.

What’s the reason? With stock-market analysis, there is sometimes an instinct to invent causality (“stocks fall on X,” “stocks slide amid Y”) when markets are driven by a matrix of inextricable factors. But in this case, the cause of bitcoin’s collapse seems pretty clear. Just as the currency’s hysterical price rise was driven in large part by demand out of China, Japan, and South Korea, its latest fall seems similarly tied to developments in Asia.

South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said the government is considering shutting down cryptocurrency exchanges, or at least introducing new regulations to the nascent crypto market. The Chinese government is also cracking down on bitcoin and other tokens, not only because citizens can use them for laundering...

It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.

I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.

That was Aziz Ansari, responding to a story that was published about him over the weekend, a story that doubled for many readers as an allegation not of criminal sexual misconduct, but of misbehavior of a more subtle strain: aggression. Entitlement. Excessive persistence. His statement, accordingly—not an apology but not, either, a denial—occupies that strange and viscous space between defiance and regret. I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart.

The story was published, on the site Babe.net, on Saturday; over the weekend, it quickly evolved from a story into a story about a story into a story about a story about a story. It was treated as a referendum on the current iteration of #MeToo. And as an exploration of the power dynamics at play in a world in which a private sexual encounter can be converted, nearly instantly, into a piece of sharable media. The story was discussed in The Atlantic and in The New York Times and in The Washington Post and on Glenn Beck’s radio show. It was discussed on...

In 1937, the antibiotic Elixir Sulfanilamide killed more than 100 Americans. “The first time I ever had occasion to call in a doctor for [Joan] ... she was given Elixir of Sulfanilamide,” wrote the mother of one of the drug’s many young victims, in a letter imploring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ban the medicine. “All that is left to us is the caring for her little grave.”

At the time, taking a new drug was like playing Russian roulette. It could bring patients back from the brink, or it could push them over. A year earlier, the president’s own son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., had been saved by a related but safe antibiotic, Prontosil. Only luck spared Franklin yet condemned Joan.

The scale of the Elixir Sulfanilamide tragedy prompted American lawmakers to ask what could be done to prevent this deadly gamble from happening again. Their simple but effective answer was the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FFDCA, which FDR signed into law June 25, 1938.

Since then, mandatory safety testing of new foods and drugs has been the law of the land. Even so, drug safety isn’t guaranteed, and the FDA’s commissioner, who has had ties to the pharmaceutical industry, expressed the desire to reduce drug regulation before he took the helm at the agency.

* * *

The story of Elixir Sulfanilamide starts with the German dye industry. Paul Ehrlich, the visionary doctor who invented the first reliable treatment of syphilis, started his...

A long weekend with lots of executive time, simmering tensions with politicians of both parties, a looming government shutdown: It’s the most potent cocktail that Donald Trump, a teetotaler, could imbibe, and it produced a predictably jarring and erratic series of statements.

Over the course of several days, mostly in tweets, Trump tried to make three points. First, he sought to discredit the idea that he had referred to African nations as “shithole countries” and said, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” (Trump also declared to a reporter that he was “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”) Second, he jockeyed for position in negotiations over funding the government, arguing Democrats were imperiling the military as he tried to preemptively shift blame to them. Finally, for good measure, he whined a little bit that he doesn’t get more credit for what he’s done:

What the president doesn’t seem to realize, or if he realizes cannot help, is that his goals are at cross-purposes. Trump, a historically prolific liar, has managed to stir up doubt in case after case, but this has...

“When we tell people we’re from the favela, they automatically think of danger, violence, mess, or worthlessness,” says Caio Guimaraes, a model featured in Geoff Levy’s short film, Rio's Different Face of Fashion. “Of course, there are bad things, but there are a lot of great things, too. It’s a magical world.”


Jacarezinho, one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, is home to a modeling agency that aims to challenge stereotypes and galvanize the community. Levy’s vibrant and kinetic documentary profiles Jacaré Moda’s rising models. More than just an economic opportunity—Guimaraes had less than a dollar to his name before he began attending casting calls—fashion, for these underserved youth, is a chance to bolster self-esteem, cultivate creativity, and achieve a purpose. It is a portal to self-actualization.


Many of the young models embrace their community’s resourceful ethos. “I improvise with all I have,” says model Natalia Sant’Anna. “Even if it’s disposable, it can be used—and used well. In the favela, you see things and you think, ‘Wow, look what they came up with.’ This is creativity.”


“Working as a model is an affirmation of my identity,” says Camila Reis, another model in the film. “Growing up, I always thought, ‘ Why am I not represented in media that tries to connect with the masses?’ We now have the opportunity to tell our story our way—through the eyes of the people who live in the favela.”


Across seven episodes of Blue Planet II, viewers are treated to a number of wondrous images. Orcas stun schools of herring by slapping them with their tails. Cuttlefish mesmerize shrimp by splaying out their arms and sending moving clouds of pigment across their skin, like a living gif. Mobula rays cavort in the deep, stirring glow plankton as they move, creating an ethereal scene that looks like a clip from Moana. Cutthroat eels slink into a lake of super-salty water at the bottom of the ocean, and some tie themselves into knots in the throes of toxic shock. Pods of bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales meet in the open ocean, greeting each other as if reuniting with old friends.

The series first aired in the United Kingdom last year and finally premieres in the United States this Saturday on BBC America. It is the latest program from the BBC’s indefatigable Natural History Unit—arguably the greatest producers of such documentaries in the world.

I remember exactly when and where I first came across their work—a VHS copy of Life on Earth, bought from the gift shop of London’s Natural History Museum at the age of 8. In the intervening decades, I have devoured almost every show that the NHU has cared to make. I celebrated David Attenborough’s recent 90th birthday by binge-watching all 79 episodes of his Life Collection for the umpteenth time, and ranking them all. I offer these tidbits, these credentials, to properly frame the following...

At the age of 21, Robyn Young was in and out of jobs, living on friends’ couches, and struggling to take care of her daughter.

“I recognized that education was a way out,” she says.

Young enrolled in college, but she couldn’t keep up with the child-care bill. So she dropped out.

According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the number of single mothers in college more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, to nearly 2.1 million students.

“There are more single mothers than there used to be,” says Barbara Gault, the vice president and executive director at IWPR. “Another reason is that for-profit colleges have aggressively recruited single mothers to attend their programs.”

Only 28 percent of single mothers who start college complete degrees, and there has been no systematic effort to address the obstacles they face. The Trump administration wants to cut a federal-aid program that provides money for campus-based child care programs, the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS).

“Average childcare costs a little under $10,000 a year,” says Meredith Kolodner, a reporter for The Hechinger Report who wrote about single mothers and college completion.“For most people, that’s more than their rent.”

Single moms face other challenges, such as student financial-aid programs that can make them ineligible for food stamps and affordable housing. More than 60 percent of single mothers in college live at or below the federal poverty level.

Some states are trying to help.

Maine, for example, offers a...