Justin West

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A Reckoning for Obama's Foreign-Policy Legacy

Veterans of the last administration are learning a hard lesson: Policies constructed by executive order and executive agreement are just as easily blown up by them.<p>Embedded in any policy is some theory of victory—some explanation, no matter how inchoate or ill-considered, that explains why this …

Political Science

I Played Fortnite and Figured Out the Universe

The best strategy is blasting everyone you see—until it's not.<p>In Fortnite Battle Royale, the world’s most popular video game, released last September and today being played by millions of people at a time, you’re dropped into the sky above a richly rendered island, 99 other players all parachuting …

Fortnite Battle Royale

The Jaguar Is Made for the Age of Humans

A writer comes face-to-face with the cat deep in the Amazon jungle and left with a new understanding of its surprising resilience to poaching and habitat loss.<p>“There’s a jaguar in the <i>baño</i>,” George Olah told me with a small smile.<p>“Um?” I managed, squinting into the dusky Amazon forest surrounding …

Wildlife

The Presidency Is Too Big to Succeed

The problems of presidential gigantism can’t be solved by finding the right giant—the office is dying from its own undisciplined growth.<p>The American presidency is broken, and everyone seems to know it. Many of its challenges are, by now, familiar. Presidents are bombarded by a 24-hour news media, …

Political Science

A Design Lab Is Making Rituals for Secular People

Will it work?<p>Religions have long been the dominant suppliers of rituals, gamely stepping in with an answer to every question from <i>How do I celebrate the birth of my baby boy?</i> to <i>How can I transfer my own sins onto a live chicken?</i> But in an age of increasing religious disaffiliation, these rituals now …

Columbia University

Every Culture Appropriates

The question is less whether a dress or an idea is borrowed, than the uses to which it’s then put.<p>Meet the Death Metal Cowboys of Botswana. In black leather decorated with metal studs, they play a pounding style of music that people who know more than me trace to the British band “Venom” and its …

Death Metal

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye

Kanye West wants freedom—white freedom.<p>I could only have seen it there, on the waxed hardwood floor of my elementary-school auditorium, because I was young then, barely 7 years old, and cable had not yet come to the city, and if it had, my father would not have believed in it. Yes, it had to have …

Michael Jackson

Randa Jarrar, Moral Grandstanding, and Forbearance - The Atlantic

Last week, the Fresno State creative writing professor Randa Jarrar sparked the latest round of debate about free speech on college campuses when she reacted to Barbara Bush’s death by speaking ill of the dead on Twitter. “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her …

Randa Jarrar

Beware of Selling Yoga Pants on Facebook

Is the social-media gig economy a form of entrepreneurship, fraud—or something else entirely?<p>“Hi! I noticed you posted about your cold today. It sucks to be sick. I thought maybe you’d like to try some greens! I love them; I swear, you’ll never get sick again!”<p>I did not want the greens.<p>This was the …

Selling

Barbara Bush Changed With Her Country

The former first lady was notably eager to learn about people she didn’t understand—and recognize she might have been wrong about them.<p>Some famous people are much less interesting in person than you would expect. Some are more interesting. And a few—a very few—rock your world. For me, Barbara Bush, …

Dining Rooms

'Morally unfit': The moments that mattered in James Comey's explosive interview

James Comey broke his silence about a wide range of topics relating to his interactions with Donald Trump before being unceremoniously fired last …

Donald Trump

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

A look at the available evidence<p>It only took five minutes for Gavin Schmidt to out-speculate me.<p>Schmidt is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (a.k.a. GISS) a world-class climate-science facility. One day last year, I came to GISS with a far-out proposal. In my work as an …

Earth Science

This Is So Much Bigger Than Facebook

Data misuse is a feature, not a bug—and it’s plaguing our entire culture.<p>After five days of silence, Mark Zuckerberg finally acknowledged the massive data compromise that allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain extensive psychographic information about 50 million Facebook users. His statement, which …

Social Media

America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny

Every now and again, when I find myself buried in the latest blizzard of invariably disturbing news emanating from the Trump White House, I go back …

Stephen Hawking Is Still Underrated

The late physicist’s radical ideas are still changing the way we look at the cosmos.<p>I have a confession to make. For a long time—years, really—I thought Stephen Hawking was overrated.<p>He was just <i>so</i> famous, an icon, and I found it hard to imagine that his contributions to physics were really …

Shia LaBeouf Is Ready To Talk About It

The actor sets out to save his career—and his soul.<p>Shia LaBeouf is nervous about this story—“I have so much fear about this thing,” he confesses to me when we first meet—and it drives him to do what he’s always done when faced with something he cannot fully control: Prepare. Obsessively. For the …

Ralph Lauren

The Beauty and Horror of Blue Planet II

David Attenborough’s latest documentary gorgeously reveals the world’s oceans—and shows how badly humans are screwing them up.<p>“Never,” declares Sir David Attenborough in the first episode of <i>Blue Planet II</i>, his latest hallucinatory swath of masterpiece nature television, “has there been a more …

Where Is Barack Obama?

The former president’s reticence in the Trump era is only hurting his party.<p>At a moment when many of his former voters believe that America is facing a genuine democratic crisis, former President Barack Obama has been largely silent about what is happening in American politics. Other than a handful …

Julie Washington’s Quest to Get Schools to Respect African-American English

The speech pathologist believes that helping kids switch seamlessly between dialects is a key to their success.<p>Studying African-American Vernacular English wasn’t Julie Washington’s plan. But one day in the fall of 1990, her speech-pathology doctorate fresh in hand, she found herself sitting with a …

The World’s Most Difficult Mountain May Soon Be Fully Conquered

What happens to climbing when the “last problem of the Himalayas” is finally solved?<p>There’s no one reason that K2 is often considered the most difficult mountain to climb. It’s not the world’s tallest mountain. It doesn’t have the highest fatality rate. It’s known for its steepness, yes, and for …

What Critics Don't Understand About Gun Culture

I carry a weapon—and it’s tied me closer to my community.<p>My wife knew something was amiss when the car blocked our driveway. She was outside our house, playing with our kids on our trampoline, when a car drove slowly down our rural Tennessee street. As it reached our house, it pulled partially in …

Guns

“Black Panther” and the Invention of “Africa”

The Maison des Esclaves stands on the rocky shore of Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, like a great red tomb. During the years of its operation, the building served as a rendezvous point for slavers trafficking in a seemingly inexhaustible resource: Africans, whose very bodies became the …

How Humans Sank New Orleans

Engineering put the Crescent City below sea level. Now, its future is at risk.<p>Below sea level. It’s a universally known topographical factoid about the otherwise flat city of New Orleans, and one that got invoked ad nauseam during worldwide media coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its catastrophic …

A Critical Analysis of Bob Dylan's 2017 Xmas Lights

For almost a decade, I have had an unhealthy obsession with the Christmas lights on Bob Dylan's Malibu home. Here's what I learned from this year's display.<p>Nine years ago I noticed that Bob Dylan, who has a residence in my neighborhood of Malibu, California, had begun to decorate the hedge outside …

Footage of a Police Shooting That Jurors Chose Not to Punish

Daniel Shaver was unarmed and begging for his life. This week, a jury found the police officer who killed him not guilty of murder or manslaughter.<p>Last week, in “A Police Killing Without a Hint of Racism,” I wrote about Daniel Shaver, an unarmed man killed in a hotel hallway while begging for his …

God’s Plan for Mike Pence

Will the vice president—and the religious right—be rewarded for their embrace of Donald Trump?<p>No man can serve two masters, the Bible teaches, but Mike Pence is giving it his all. It’s a sweltering September afternoon in Anderson, Indiana, and the vice president has returned to his home state to …

A Police Killing Without a Hint of Racism

Daniel Shaver begged officers not to shoot him. What role will his death play in the push for law-enforcement reforms?<p>On January 18, 2016, Daniel Shaver, a traveling pest-control worker, was in between shifts at his motel, a La Quinta Inn and Suites in Mesa, Arizona. In the elevator, he met a man …

Reflections of an Affirmative-Action Baby

White men from fancy schools advanced quickly at the New Republic. Asking how much of their success was due to race, gender, and class would have meant asking the same of myself.<p>In 1991, the African-American Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter wrote a book called <i>Reflections of an Affirmative</i> …

The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change

What lurks in the Arctic’s thawing permafrost?<p>From the air, the coast of Greenland appears vast and tranquil. Hundreds of fjords, their surfaces a mirror of blue sky and cloud bottoms, divide the territory. In the gaps between them, the terrain folds over itself, hill over hill, descending into …

Why Computers Should Be Hidden

A luxury bicycle computer forecasts a welcome future of humble, embedded systems.<p>The joy I used to feel when using computers has turned largely to anguish. These machines once provided a unique and compelling way to do things, from writing to shopping to communication to entertainment. But today, …