Incoming: What A Month This Week Has Been

The whistleblower complaint, the US to accept fewer refugees, your weekend longreads.

Democrats want to impeach Trump over a number of scandals, but say they’ll focus solely on Ukraine

For months, Democrats have investigated numerous aspects of the Donald Trump’s presidency, from allegations of sexual assault to his responses to white nationalism and the attack in Charlottesville.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the focus of the impeachment inquiry would be incredibly narrow: it will only look at Trump’s latest scandal, involving pressuring Ukraine to provide dirt on Joe Biden.

This is in part practical: It’s much easier to explain the allegations of abuse of office in this case, and Trump has largely admitted to much of the events in question.

The whistleblower

According to a whistleblower complaint that was released yesterday, White House officials said Trump abused “his office for personal gain” by asking the president of Ukraine during a phone call to investigate a political rival.

In the days following the phone call, White House officials sought to cover it up, the whistleblower alleged. The whistleblower also wrote that senior officials were directed by White House lawyers to “lock down” records of the call between the two leaders.

Trump told members of the US Mission to the United Nations that anyone who provided information to the whistleblower is “close to a spy,” and suggested it was treason.

Political fallout

Republicans, meanwhile, say that Trump’s call with Ukraine isn’t the problem — the problem is that the call leaked in the first place.

The White House says Congress can’t force Trump’s advisers to testify. A judge is about to test this claim.

The Trump administration is slashing the number of refugees allowed into the US to an all-time low

The State Department intends to slash the number of refugees allowed into the US in the next fiscal year to 18,000, the fewest since the government began its refugee program in 1980.

This is a drastic cut even from last year’s numbers, when the administration capped the number of refugees at 30,000. For comparison with other administrations, in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the number was set at 110,000.

The decision to slash the refugee program was swiftly criticized by humanitarian groups.


Smoking experts are worried a vaping ban will increase cigarette sales. After an explosion of vaping-related illnesses, state officials are telling people to stop vaping. Smoking experts worry a vaping van would threaten a decade of progress in reducing smoking rates.

Google removed a dozen apps from a major Chinese developer, and won’t say why. Google quietly removed at least 46 apps belonging to iHandy, but won’t comment on why it took action — further raising concerns about the privacy practices of Android developers based in that country.

Police are investigating a white woman who yelled the N-word and said she was pro-lynching at a CVS. The LAPD is investigating what it's calling a hate incident involving the woman, who yelled racist threats about lynching black people. Her comments spread online in a now-viral video.

J.Lo and Shakira will perform at the 2020 Super Bowl. If you still remember the rather bland showings of Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5 of the past couple of years, news that these icons are doing the halftime show is probably quite welcome.

Teenage girls are leading the climate movement — and getting attacked for it

It’s not just Greta Thunberg. Teenage girls are overwhelmingly leading a growing global movement to draw attention to the climate crisis.

They spurred an estimated 4 million people across seven continents to walk out of work and school on Sept. 20 — and they are getting attacked for it.

The abuse is ugly. Teen girls leading this movement have faced a barrage of daily insults, seemingly coordinated attacks, creepy DMs, doxing, hacked accounts, and death threats.

In response, climate advocates are aggressively reporting and calling out accounts targeting the kids. To flag problematic profiles, they sometimes use hashtags like #CreepyDeniers and #TeamMuskOx, named after a species that forms a circle around vulnerable members of its herd.

Read Zahra Hirji’s report on the online abuse targeting teen activists.

These longreads will keep you company this weekend

Why Hasn’t Cancel Culture Come For It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? Look, there’s no getting around it, It’s Always Sunny is deeply offensive — it’s meant to be. But it’s also very funny. Scaachi Koul explores how such a politically incorrect show is still thriving: “ the show has aged and its cast has only become more depraved, the writing has become more precise, and there’s even less ambiguity that you’re laughing at the racists, never with them.”

Susan Sontag’s Queer Life. Reflections on the iconic legacy of Susan Sontag have yet to fully reckon with how fundamentally queerness shaped her writing and her life. Pier Dominguez looks at a controversial new biography of Sontag that makes room for that conversation: “Sontag's position in the American writing pantheon is unique, and that uniqueness is the product of a complicated mix of queer self-denial and self-making that we are only just beginning to see take shape.”

Celebrity Book Clubs Are Actually Selling Books. Are you a member of Reese Witherspoon’s book club? What about Jenna Bush Hager’s? Elisabeth Donnelly looks at how these celebrity book clubs, following in the footsteps of Oprah, drive sales for publishers and give authors the gift of instant success: “By BookScans’ measurements, a pick from Witherspoon means that a book’s sales will overperform by 700% compared to the rest of the fiction market.”

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