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Atomic cake
Atomic cake
Sruthi Gottipati

-OpEd-

When U.S. President Donald Trump recounted last week's bombing of Syria to a Fox News journalist, the first direct U.S. assault on the regime of the war-torn country, he shared an anecdote — in vivid detail — about eating chocolate cake with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-A-Lago estate.

Trump: "I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We're now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. So what happens is, I said, we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq."

Journalist, momentarily flummoxed: "Headed to Syria?"

Pause.

Trump: "Yes, heading toward Syria."

So he remembered the dessert served, but forgot the country targeted.

The missile strikes, which enmesh the U.S. deeper in the Middle East, a region Trump's predecessor spent two terms trying to extract the country from, killed seven people, including four children, Syrian state media claims — a charge the White House denies. Trump's jocular attitude toward the U.S. attack is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake." It could only come from a president who sleeps soundly at night, unperturbed by how much devastation can be wrought by just a jowly nod from the commander-in-chief.

Trump appears to employ military options with the nonchalance of scheduling a weekend getaway at Mar-A-Lago.

Indeed, there was more to come. On Thursday, the U.S. dropped the "mother of all bombs," shortened to the sprightly moniker MOAB, on an ISIS target in Afghanistan. This was the largest non-nuclear device ever unleashed in combat. Reuters quantified it: "The bomb's destructive power, equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, pales in comparison with the relatively small atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War Two, which had blasts equivalent to between 15,000 and 20,000 tons of TNT."

In a week where Trump suddenly reversed his stance on multiple foreign policy fronts, the decision to use such a weapon begs the question where all this is headed. A new arms race with Russia? Nuclear showdown this summer with North Korea? Trump appears to employ military options with the nonchalance of scheduling a weekend getaway at Mar-A-Lago.

Barely three months ago, Trump was sworn in as the president in an inauguration that sent collective jitters around the world. This real estate billionaire, who has quipped that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody" without losing voters, was assuming the most powerful office in the world that gave him access to the country's nuclear codes.

In a divided nation, some analysts worried that domestic policy failures would mean that Trump would turn toward foreign shores to bolster his popularity at home.

Sure enough his domestic policy has thus far failed. And sure enough he is casting his eyes abroad. The attack on Syria led to fawning media attention for the first time for a president hungry for approval. For Trump, it was just desserts.

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Future

Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

As objective as any man

Anto Magzan/ZUMA
Rachel E. Gross

-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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