“This is the end of Hong Kong”

Email sent: May 21, 2020 6:00pm

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The Senate confirms a new director of national intelligence; Beijing prepares to crack down on Hong Kong.


Tonight's Sentences was written by Cameron Peters.

The Senate signs off on new intel chief
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, 49-44, as the new director of national intelligence in a party-line vote. [CNN / Jeremy Herb]
  • He will replace current US ambassador to Germany and acting DNI Rick Grenell in the job. As intelligence director, Ratcliffe will oversee the 17 agencies that make up the US intelligence community. [Washington Post / Shane Harris]
  • The confirmation vote concludes Ratcliffe’s second, more successful stint as DNI-in-waiting. In July last year, Ratcliffe was briefly tapped for the position by President Donald Trump, only to withdraw his name from consideration amid bipartisan scrutiny. [Roll Call / Chris Cioffi]
  • Ratcliffe is the fourth person to hold the DNI job within the past year, and his confirmation means that the role will again be filled by a Senate-confirmed official after nine months without. [Twitter / Mary Louise Kelly]
  • His predecessor, Grenell, was a highly controversial choice when he landed in the role in February. Called an “ultraright-wing sniper” by one official, Grenell lacked any real intelligence experience and carried a reputation as a fiercely partisan Trump loyalist above all else. [Vox / Cameron Peters]
  • But that’s not to say that Ratcliffe is a much more orthodox choice: When he was briefly up for the job last year, he came under intense scrutiny for exaggerating his national-security credentials and for his fervent defense of Trump during impeachment proceedings. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Ratcliffe’s confirmation comes at a sensitive time for the US intelligence committee: Last month, the New York Times reported that members of the Trump administration were pressuring intel agencies to find evidence linking the coronavirus to a Chinese government lab in Wuhan. [NYT / Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong, and Adam Goldman]
  • And Ratcliffe has done little to allay concerns about the politicization of intelligence. As the Dallas Morning News notes, he has to date failed to accept the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Trump. [Dallas Morning News / Todd J. Gillman]
A renewed crackdown on Hong Kong
  • The Chinese government is preparing to impose a severe new national security law on Hong Kong in an attempt to quell the unrest and protests that roiled the city for much of last year. [BBC]
  • According to the Washington Post, the law will criminalize "foreign interference,” “secessionist activities” and the “subversion of state power” in a dramatic escalation of the Beijing-Hong Kong struggle. [Washington Post / Shibani Mahtani, Anna Fifield, and Tiffany Liang]
  • And critics say it will all but end the autonomy previously enjoyed by Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” policy that has governed the relationship between the city and mainland China since the British departed. [CNN / James Griffiths and Steven Jiang]
  • Last year’s protests were launched amid similar concerns about an extradition bill — eventually defeated by sustained popular pressure on the Hong Kong government — and overreach from mainland China. [NYT / Keith Bradsher, Austin Ramzy, and Tiffany May]
  • The new law will be on the agenda for the Chinese National People’s Congress when it begins its session Friday, and is expected to go through with little resistance. It could pass as soon as next week. [The Guardian / Lily Kuo, Verna Yu, and Helen Davidson]
A new analysis from Columbia University suggests that implementing social distancing measures in the US just a week earlier could have saved as many as 36,000 lives — more than a third of the current Covid-19 death toll.

[NPR / Bill Chappell]

  • The US will withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, making it the third arms control agreement that the Trump administration has done away with. [NYT / David E. Sanger]
  • Why Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was a lynching [Vox / Sean Collins]
  • Georgia demonstrates that lifting lockdown restrictions doesn’t mean the economy will automatically reopen too. [Politico / Megan Cassella]
  • “The bears don’t seem to mind": How Appalachian Trail hikers are responding to the pandemic [NYT / Alan Yuhas]
"As an imam, I am considering myself an essential worker. I’m just a community servant. This is the time that I have to stand next to my community. You can talk about God, how important it is to trust in almighty Allah — now is the time to prove it."

[Imam Ahmed Ali Uzir on his decision to continue carrying Muslim funerals during the pandemic / Vox]

Lo-Fi hip-hop has emerged as a hugely popular genre and internet subculture.

There’s just something about those ambient, spacey, plodding beats that place us in a state of determined zen. [Spotify / Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding]

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