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Letter from Washington

Power of Attorney

In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is…

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The Military-Industrial Virus

For a country that spends such vast sums on its national security apparatus—many times more than the enemies that supposedly threaten it do—the United States has a strangely invisible military…

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No Joe!

In the heart of the US Capitol there’s a small men’s room with an uplifting Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt quotation above the door. Making use of the facilities there after lunch…

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Blood Money

Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did…

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How to Start a Nuclear War

Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill…

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Mobbed Up

Lance Bunch has had an impressive year. In July 2017, he gained a coveted star, having been promoted to brigadier general while serving as the principal military assistant to James…

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Swap Meet

For 173 years, the Stoneman House stood peacefully in the Tuscarawas Valley on the outskirts of Leesville, Ohio. The elegant two-story brick structure was owned and occupied by just three…

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Crime and Punishment

Meeting with the leaders of NATO countries in May, President Trump chastised them sternly for their shortcomings as allies. He took the time, however, to make respectful reference to the…

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It’s My Party

Close to a decade ago, as Barack Obama was cresting toward his first presidential victory, Jim Martin pleaded desperately for his help. Martin was a progressive Democrat running for the…

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Texas is the Future

Ask anyone who was present at Hillary Clinton’s presumptive victory celebration on November 8 and they will tell you of the stunned silence, broken only by sobs, that settled across…

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The New Red Scare

“Welcome to the world of strategic analysis,” Ivan Selin used to tell his team during the Sixties, “where we program weapons that don’t work to meet threats that don’t exist.”…

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Acceptable Losses

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development…

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Down the Tube

“I never met a politician who started out to be a fund-raiser,” remarked Mike McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist and recipient of constant pleas for cash from lawmakers. For years,…

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A Special Relationship

One morning early in 1988, Ed McWilliams, a foreign-service officer posted to the American Embassy in Kabul, heard the thump of a massive explosion from somewhere on the other side…

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Weed Whackers

On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered…

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Saving the Whale, Again

In the late fall of 1970, a forty-five-foot sperm whale beached itself on the Oregon coast and expired. Local authorities, puzzling over how best to dispose of the huge rotting…

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Game On

On February 28, 2014, Russian troops effortlessly seized control of Crimea. Two days later, Congressman Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, denounced the Obama…

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Washington Is Burning

On a sunny Saturday in June, thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s…

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Tunnel Vision

Early one evening in May 2012, an extraordinary hour-long radio conversation attracted the attention of various listeners among the NATO forces in the Afghan theater. On one end of the conversation…

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Secretary of Nothing

When former president Bill Clinton nominated Barack Obama for a second term at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, the hall was packed to the rafters with…

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A Very Perfect Instrument

At the beginning of World War I, Britain set up a blockade designed, according to one of its architects, Winston Churchill, to “starve the whole population of Germany — men,…

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May 2020