Best columns: The U.S.
Our favorite conspiracy theory
One conspiracy theory is popular among Americans of all political persuasions, said Dante Chinni: The belief that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy. The traumatic events of Nov. 22, 1963, hold “a special place in the American psyche,” and people have been “skeptical from the beginning” about the official finding that JFK’s death was the work of a lone gunman. Over the years, various theorists, authors, and movie directors have blamed the CIA, Fidel Castro, the Mafia, and even Lyndon Johnson for arranging the assassination, with Oswald just serving as a willing stooge. A new FiveThirtyEight.com poll finds that 61 percent still think some other group was involved, with only 33 percent saying that Oswald acted alone. With “no smoking gun” in last week’s release of some 2,800 files related to the assassination, suspicions will continue. A majority of people in nearly every demographic believe in some kind of conspiracy, including men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics, registered voters, nonvoters, and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton voters. In a country that can’t muster a majority for anything, belief in a JFK assassination conspiracy is still “as American as apple pie.”
Why Putin hates U.S. sanctions
The Washington Post
“The sanctions on Russia are working,” said Anne Applebaum. Moscow’s “spitting fury” serves as proof. Canadian lawmakers last week passed their own version of the Magnitsky Act, a series of U.S. sanctions named after a lawyer who died in grisly circumstances in a Moscow prison after uncovering a “vast” government corruption scandal. The Magnitsky Act deprives specific Russian oligarchs and Putin cronies of “access to Western banks, Western vacation homes, and Western educations for their children.” Putin“really, really hates the Magnitsky sanctions” and the other sanctions slapped on his inner circle by the Obama administration. The Kremlin responded to Canada’s lawmakers by issuing an international arrest warrant for Bill Browder, the U.S.-born businessman who led the campaign to pass the Magnitsky Act—the fifth time it has done so. Putin’s fervent desire to get the sanctions lifted also motivated his government’s campaign to damage Hillary Clinton in 2016 and curry favor with Donald Trump and his aides. In Russia, the sanctions have generated huge anger among the wealthy elites, much of it “directed, quietly, at Putin himself,” who has failed to get them lifted. We must make sure he never succeeds.
Nerve gas in your dinner
The New York Times
The fruit and vegetables you and your kids eat may be contaminated with a nerve gas originally developed by Nazi Germany, said Nicholas Kristof. It’s a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, made by the Dow Chemical Co., and studies have found that it damages the brain, reduces IQs, and has been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The Environmental Protection Agency banned chlorpyrifos— or as I prefer to call it, the “Nerve Gas Pesticide”— for indoor residential use 17 years ago, and was finally preparing to ban it for agricultural and outdoor use this year. But after Dow donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration committee, the EPA reversed course. So chlorpyrifos will keep getting sprayed on the food we eat and on golf courses, so it trickles into the water we drink. Toxic chemicals already can be found in nearly all our bodies, and could be playing a role in the widening epidemic of lowered male sperm counts and infertility, developmental disorders, cancer, and other serious maladies. While everyone is “diverted by the daily White House fireworks,” this administration “is handing the keys of our regulatory apparatus” to the American Chemistry Council and other industry groups. It will be a lasting and toxic legacy. ■