American Hallowe’en, 2020. Is there anything scarier?

As you read this, the last superpower on earth is three days out from an election that will decide whether Donald J. Trump, a reality show businessman who is $900 million in debt and facing investigation by federal and state authorities, deserves four more years as President. The election is unquestionably a referendum on the incumbent, not about Joe Biden’s policies for the next four years. …


Valerie Plame photographed in her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photos: Benjamin Rasmussen

Valerie Plame worked for the CIA and tangled with Bush. Now she wants to fight Trump from Congress.

Ten Thousand Waves Spa is a pagoda of Zen steam on the New Mexico high desert. Behind the sliding doors and walls of falling water, a photogenic blonde drops her robe and, backdropped by the flag-blue sky, slips into the 106-degree water of the women’s communal tub. No one seems to recognize the famous ex-CIA agent running for Congress. Naked as the day she was born, Valerie Plame is almost as anonymous here as she ever was, back when she was known only as “Val P.” to her fellow agents-in-training at a CIA camp in Virginia, and later, slipping around…


Uncool, middle-aged white women are Democrats’ best hope for unseating Trump. Why does the online left hate them so much?

I am late to the Karens, which probably makes me Karen-ish — that is, white, middle class, middle-aged, female, college-educated, from Midwestern suburbia, and too distracted to track what’s trending on Twitter. So, when a video was retweeted into my feed last week calling an obnoxious, mask-defying white woman a “Karen,” I asked whether there might not be some actual Karens who did not act like that. I was stupefied at the hostile replies, including one that simply stated, “Because you’re fucking white.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. White middle-class women of a certain age are among the last groups…


One writer’s defense of the Covid-19 cocktail hour

Photo: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

April is the cruelest month, breeding daffodils and gin and tonics.

If we survive, I will forever associate this period of our lives with the sacrificial slicing of the lime, the pouring of the holy inebriant lightly tinctured with the presidential miracle, tonic of quinine. (Quinine, a treatment for malaria, is also found in tonic water.)

Fleeing New York like rats, my husband and I decamped north to socially isolate in a drafty house in the middle of what the locals call mud season, a time of grassless muck by day and treacherous plains of brown ice as the temperatures…


Reflections on the Mediterranean diet as an antidote to encroaching middle age

Illustration: Karnn Bhullar

CILENTO, ITALY — By the time my husband and I set off on our hike in the Cilento, an Edenic mountainous region of Italy where some of the longest-lived people on Earth dwell, we’d been in Italy gorging on antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci, and vino twice daily for almost a week. To say we staggered to the edge of paradise would be only a slight exaggeration.

The Cilento is Italy’s second largest national park, encompassing thousands of square kilometers of cliffs, gorges, mountain peaks, plunging waterfalls, and verdant ravines. Situated on the edge of the Mediterranean just south of the…


Reasonable Doubt

Ex-CIA spooks talk Trump-Russia, JFK, and more at Valerie Plame’s inaugural espionage conference

Photo: Busà Photography

It was just a week after my return from Spies, Lies & Nukes, a weekend espionage seminar hosted by former CIA agent Valerie Plame in November at a hotel in downtown Santa Fe, when one of the conference attendees — let’s call him Snow Goose — buzzed my cell with some urgent news.

He wanted me to know that, based on his professional judgment, honed over decades in covert intelligence, one of our fellow guests at the conference was now playing for Moscow. His evidence was far from conclusive: Now officially retired, the other spy — call him Copernicus —…


Power Trip

The SCOTUS battle was never about Roe v. Wade. The real prize, as always, is money and the power to make more of it.

Photo by Tom Williams/AFP/Getty

Now we know that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is not “sober as a judge.” His handlers might have preferred it otherwise. But if watching a rock-ribbed former wide receiver and cornerback snivel and sob for a chance at a lifetime job offended the sensibilities of a he-man worshipper like Senator Lindsey Graham, or forced the President, who hates men who cry, to swallow his revulsion, or made sensitive observers cringe and giggle, it’s a small price to pay for a coveted prize.

Washington is in a state of mayhem, but the odds are still high that Kavanaugh will be confirmed —…


Great Escape

Reflecting on my childhood fear of mirrors

Illustration: renald Louissaint

I was seven and already on my way to becoming a neurotic, bookish kid. I had only recently learned how to read the words in the volumes piled helter-skelter on shelves, spilling out of cardboard boxes in closets, the collapsing columns of tomes on the floor. I could not have pronounced many of the words they contained, much less understood them, but I rolled them around in my brain, alongside the equally unpronounceable names of the authors. Thucydides. Freud. Millet. Yeats. Whitman.

The people who owned and lived with these books wanted to be poets. Other than that commonality, they…


Nina Burleigh is on assignment with Newsweek in Antarctica.

It is still Earth, but Antarctica is an alien land. In his book Future of Life, Nobel-winning American biologist Edward O. Wilson wrote of Antarctica, “On all of the Earth, the McMurdo Dry Valleys most resemble the rubbled plains of Mars.”

Antarctica is not as uninhabitable as Mars, but almost. It’s also a place that tricks the eye, it’s a trompe l’oeil of nature. On land, the whites stretch on forever, and snow, peak and cloud mingle so voyagers lose track of the difference. At sea, icebergs loom out of the…


Nina Burleigh is on assignment with Newsweek in Antarctica.

We have seen many whales around the Antarctic Peninsula in the last few days. Their great black backs rise up out of the freezing brine and disappear, sometimes followed by a tourist-pleasing flip of the tail, called a fluke.

It’s hard to believe but these massive creatures are only two steps up the food chain from photosynthesis. They gorge on shrimp-like creatures called krill. Krill feed on one-celled creatures called diatoms, which live on sunlight.

The tale of the whale in Antarctica has not been a happy one. Antarctic exploration was…

Nina Burleigh

Writer, explorer, national politics, 6 books, NYC.

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