Justice Dept. Backs Away From Trump Era but Is Still Expected to Test Garland

WASHINGTON — As Judge Merrick B. Garland prepares to take over the Justice Department, officials have already begun to reverse Trump-era policies denounced by Democrats and restore what longtime employees described as a less charged environment where they no longer feared retaliation from the president or public criticism from the attorney general.

Judge Garland, who is expected to be confirmed as attorney general in the coming days with bipartisan support, emphasized in his confirmation hearing his experience as a former prosecutor and his commitment to protecting the department from partisan influence. His remarks gave many Justice Department officials the impression that he would be an evenhanded leader who would trust and respect them.

But the judge’s vow to be fair and apolitical will be immediately tested by politically thorny investigations, efforts to reverse Trump-era measures and the Biden administration’s aims to reinvigorate civil rights initiatives and combat domestic terrorism, including the sprawling investigation into the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6.

Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general and a career law enforcement official, quickly began reversing the Trump administration’s signature initiatives last month, including some viewed with skepticism even by Republicans. He rescinded contentious guidance to prosecutors about voter fraud investigations and harsh sentencing, as well as the “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry into the United States from Mexico, which separated thousands of children from their families.

Since President Biden took office on Jan. 20, the department has also notified the Supreme Court that it would no longer challenge the Affordable Care Act, disavowing its position under the Trump administration. It withdrew a lawsuit that accused Yale of discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants, seen as part of a wider effort to dismantle affirmative action. And it retracted support for a lawsuit seeking to block transgender students from participating in girls’ high school sports.

Other moves by Mr. Wilkinson helped raise morale among employees who saw President Donald J. Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr as wielding the Justice Department for political gain, according to current and former employees. Most notably, Mr. Wilkinson asked a Trump-appointed prosecutor to stay on to oversee an investigation into Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden; and he allowed John H. Durham, the special counsel, to continue his inquiry into the Russia investigation. Department officials viewed the decisions as an indication that facts, rather than political interests, would set the course.

Though Democrats said they considered those moves an important reset, more difficult work lies ahead. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused previous department leaders during Judge Garland’s confirmation hearing of shaking the public trust in the department as they sought to advance Mr. Trump’s personal and political interests. Mr. Durbin called for the next attorney general to restore faith in the rule of law.

Despite support from many Republicans on the committee, which voted 15 to 7 to advance Mr. Garland’s nomination, at least one objected to expediting his confirmation, Mr. Durbin said on Wednesday. “It could be days, maybe even into next week, before he can take the job,” Mr. Durbin said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Like any attorney general, Judge Garland will face headwinds once he is in charge of criminal investigations with political dimensions. “The integrity and wisdom of decision-making throughout the department will continually be drawn into question,” Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor, said in Senate testimony supporting the judge’s nomination.

Judge Garland told the committee that the first briefing he would receive from aides would be on the assault on the Capitol, which he called “the most heinous attack on the democratic processes” he had seen and an indicator that domestic extremism was a greater problem now than it was when he investigated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Leadership of that investigation is in flux. The head of the Capitol assault investigation, Michael R. Sherwin, has stepped down as the acting U.S. attorney in Washington and may relinquish oversight of the case in the coming weeks, according to a memo he wrote to the office.

That investigation promises to be politically tinged; it has already edged toward Mr. Trump’s inner circle, with the F.B.I. examining communications between extremists and his ally Roger J. Stone Jr. And as the department prioritizes its fight against domestic extremism, with the Capitol case at the center of its work, it will face unavoidable questions about links between extremists and the Republican Party.

Judge Garland’s record of combating domestic terrorism — which includes not only the Oklahoma City case but also his supervision of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing and the Unabomber case — can help blunt fears of politicization in those investigations, said Matthew Schneider, a partner at the Honigman law firm and a former U.S. attorney in Michigan.

When Michigan prosecutors indicted members of a violent white supremacist group in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat who had sparred with Mr. Trump, political infighting between the two overshadowed his announcement, Mr. Schneider said.

Two other inquiries — the federal tax fraud investigation into Hunter Biden and the Durham investigation into any potential wrongdoing by Obama-era officials who opened the Russia inquiry — are certain to be met with accusations of political influence, no matter their outcomes.

Justice Department employees expressed hope that Judge Garland’s reputation for fairness and integrity would help mitigate some of those accusations. He is also a departure in temperament and leadership from Mr. Barr’s sometimes combative bluntness, which current and former employees predicted could help dampen controversy.

“He has the reputation we need in an attorney general right now,” Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said of Judge Garland. “He’s recognized as being a thoughtful person, not as an ideologue or as a political partisan. And he understands what it means to be the attorney general for the country, and not for the president. There will never be a morning when you open the paper and see that he’s misused his authority to protect the president.”

Mr. Barr’s approach to politically charged prosecutorial matters was also a model to be avoided, current and former employees said. He contravened norms to let prosecutors investigate fraud before the election was certified, fueling fears that the results could not be trusted. He ordered them to lower a sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies but later pardoned by Mr. Trump. And he sought to drop a case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. Mr. Barr also used a manuscript review process intended to keep classified information private to sue Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the author of a gossipy tell-all about working for the former first lady Melania Trump.

Under Mr. Wilkinson, the department withdrew the legal action against Ms. Wolkoff and returned to working through established chains of command.

Judge Garland is also expected to try to revive the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which under Mr. Trump saw its priorities drastically shift. Religious freedoms were prioritized over work to protect rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people. The department all but stopped using consent decrees as a tool to overhaul police departments with records of racial discrimination and other abuses. Mr. Barr sought to more narrowly enforce Civil Rights Act prohibitions on racial discrimination, and he accused the Black Lives Matter movement of using Black people as props for a radical political agenda.

Late last year, the department banned any diversity and inclusion training or programming to comply with Mr. Trump’s executive order that banned such training and said that implicit bias did not exist. That guidance was rescinded.

Judge Garland’s positions so far demonstrate a contrast, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion appeared heartfelt, said a Justice Department employee who belonged to the D.O.J. Gender Equality Network, an employee-run advocacy organization that promotes equitable treatment for workers in the department.

But Republicans have already warned against an embrace of progressive priorities, insisting that religious freedom must not lose priority and that consent decrees should not be widely used. Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, has indicated that he will not support Kristen Clarke, Mr. Biden’s nominee to run the civil rights division.

But Judge Garland made clear at his hearing that he supported reversing the version of civil rights under the Trump administration, rooting his position in the department’s origins in fighting the Ku Klux Klan and upholding the Civil Rights Act to protect the rights of “the most vulnerable members of our society.”

That mission “remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice,” Judge Garland said. “Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, in education, in employment and in the criminal justice system.”

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Drake Dishes on Going to Parent-Teacher Meetings on New Song

Drake is back in the studio and has a lot to say about his parenting duties.

The “In My Feelings” rapper released his Scary Hours 2 EP on March 5, which includes song three new songs. Among the new tracks is a collab with Rick Ross called “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” in which Drake discusses his life with 3-year-old son, Adonis Graham.

“Yeah, dropped him off at school, big day for my lil’ man / Recess hits, daddy prolly made another M / School bell rings and I’m out there to get him again,” the Grammy winner rapped. “Yeah, teacher-parent meetings, wives get googly-eyed / Regardless of what they husbands do to provide / Askin’ if I know Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj.”

The rapper also commented on sticking out like a sour thumb when he arrives at his son’s French immersion school—where French is taught as a second language. As fans may know, Adonis’ mother Sophie Brussaux is French and Drake hails from Canada.

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Grace VanderWaal Drops New Song ‘Don’t Assume What You Don’t Know’

A new era! Grace VanderWaal is ready to reintroduce herself with her latest single, “Don’t Assume What You Don’t Know.”

The singer-songwriter, 17, released the edgy, alternative-pop song and its accompanying music video at midnight on Friday, March 5, via Columbia Records.

“It’s about someone facing the truth about Hollywood, going through that process and realizing that they’re in too deep,” VanderWaal said in a statement. “It feels really good to express yourself so freely. It’s empowering and very healing.”

In the retro-inspired video, the America’s Got Talent season 11 winner swaps out her signature ukulele for a bass guitar and shows off her newly shaved head, which recently made her go viral on TikTok.

Grace VanderWaal. Clare Gillen/Columbia Records

“I am very smart, and I usually know what things are going to make people talk or grasp attention, but that I didn’t expect in the slightest,” she told Nylon in an interview published on Thursday, March 4. “I realized the world is so much more sexist than I thought. People jump to mad conclusions for a woman having short hair, like ‘[she’s having a] mental breakdown or on drugs.’ What does that say about us?”

That said, the social media trolls’ commentary “exhilarated” VanderWaal, who told the magazine, “Lately, I don’t know what’s going on in my brain or what happened to me, but all of a sudden, I like to make people uncomfortable, and I want people to ask themselves why they’re uncomfortable with whatever I’m doing. I actually think that’s why I really like punk music; they’re doing things to make people uncomfortable. I want this whole project to just be about just completely unapologetic self-expression. If you’re uncomfortable, screw you. That’s your own s–t to work through.”

In addition to having more music in the works, the young star is gearing up to star in the upcoming sequel to her first movie, Stargirl, which premiered on Disney+ in 2020.

Listen on Google Play Music

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Drake Returns with ‘Scary Hours 2’

The Boy is back.

After much anticipation, Drake returns with his first new music in seven months. Scary Hours 2, a sequel to his 2018 two-pack, features a trio of tracks from October’s Very Own—”What’s Next,” “Wants and Needs” with Lil Baby, and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” featuring Rick Ross.

He also debuted a video for one of the three tracks, “What’s Next.” In the Theo Skudra-directed clip, Drizzy speeds off in a Mercedes on the snowy runway before taking over CF Toronto Eaton Centre. He visits an aquarium, rides the empty subway, and takes to the top of the CN Tower. In the final scene, he is joined by his OVO crew including Noah “40” Shebib, Oliver El-Khatib, and OVO Niko.

Along with new music, Drake also announced the return of OVO Sound Radio and the launch of his 24-hour curated station SOUND 42 on SiriusXM, which his manager Oliver El-Khatib dubbed the “most comprehensive music program in the world.” He originally announced the SiriusXM partnership back in July 2019 after his deal with Apple Music ended.

Drake is now gearing up for his sixth studio album Certified Lover Boy. During OVO Sound Radio, the Canadian superstar provided an update on the long-awaited project, which was delayed due to his injury.

“I’m just grateful to be back on my feet. I went through a little bit of a tough stretch with an injury and I’m back in tip-top form,” he said. “CLB is currently being cheffed in every way possible…I’m back in the studio with 40 tough. I’m just really excited about the music that we’re making and I feel like I’ve locked into a zone where I’m really trying to execute on a project that’s fulfilling for my soul.”

However, there is still no release date. “I don’t have an exact date, but just know that it’s in a pot and it’s coming soon.”

Stream Scary Hours 2 below.

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Breaking New

UK’s new Brexit man makes his mark with Northern Ireland row – POLITICO

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s combative new Brexit minister is already ruffling feathers in Brussels.

David Frost managed to annoy both the Irish and the European Commission’s top brass with a unilateral U.K. decision to exempt British firms from some bureaucracy when shipping food to Northern Ireland, a move the EU says breaches the Brexit divorce deal.

The policy, announced by the U.K. in a written statement, marks Frost’s opening gambit as Johnson’s new Brexit “super minister,” a role he only just inherited from Michael Gove. As Britain’s former chief Brexit negotiator, Frost had been expected to take on a more behind-the-scenes policy job, but was given the expanded remit in a shake-up announced last month.

The decision Wednesday caused consternation in Brussels, where officials had been expected to resolve ongoing trade disruption in Northern Ireland later this month through a fresh meeting of the EU-U.K. Joint Committee, which oversees the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and its protocol on the sensitive Northern Ireland border.

Brussels is now considering legal action after Britain said it would unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland’s ports for at least six months, and the general mood at the Commission is that the U.K. has ignored successive attempts at engagement.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for talks with London on the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal, are “angry and deeply worried” at what they see as a provocation and breach of trust by the Brits, an EU official said.

Šefčovič was left perplexed by the absence of a phone call or a message from Frost in advance of the government’s statement. The two did not speak until Wednesday evening, hours after the announcement, although the U.K. said the plan was raised at official level and with the Irish government before it was announced.

Frost, who took over his new role on Tuesday, “didn’t have time before Wednesday to speak to Šefčovič but had time to call [French Europe Minister] Clément Beaune,” the official complained.

“The Commission is very concerned since yesterday,” the same official added. “The first thing Frost has done is unilaterally taking the freedom to do whatever they want.”

First move

It is not the first time the EU has felt snubbed by Britain since it left the bloc. At the last Joint Committee meeting in February, Šefčovič offered to meet again in late March, days before some of the controversial Northern Ireland grace periods are set to expire.

He also offered technical discussions or a meeting of the deal’s specialized committee on Northern Ireland, the official said, but the British government has yet to reply.

At that meeting, Šefčovič did not rule out extending the grace periods, the same official added. But he is said to have told Gove, his counterpart at the time, that the Commission needed the British government to offer an “operational plan” including “solid arguments” for extension in order to persuade EU member states to agree.

Johnson’s official spokesman said Thursday that the U.K. government needed to take action “to address the disproportionate impact that some aspects of the protocol are having on the citizens of Northern Ireland contrary to its intended purpose” and that it gave due notice to the EU.

“We notified the European Commission at official level earlier this week,” the spokesman said. “We also informed the Irish government earlier this week and then Lord Frost last night in his call to Šefčovič obviously discussed this at length and set out the rationale and the reasons for it.”

The Commission remains open to further discussions, but a second EU official said it is up to the U.K. to take the initiative. “I would be very surprised if Šefčovič makes the first move now,” they said.

In parallel, the EU is considering legal action under Article 12 of the Northern Ireland protocol. The Commission could launch an infringement procedure against the U.K., as it did with the incendiary Internal Market Bill last year, taking its case to the Court of Justice of the EU. Infringement procedures tend to drag out, but Brussels could ask the court for interim measures or an accelerated process.

Another option would be to trigger the dispute settlement mechanism in the Brexit divorce deal. The Commission is consulting on whether this could run in parallel to the infringement procedure, the first official said.

As a last resort, the link between the Withdrawal Agreement, which agreed Britain’s exit, and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which agreed the two sides’ future trade ties, could allow the EU to impose tariffs on certain U.K. goods. However, this option may be too politically sensitive and could have long-term repercussions on, for instance, Northern Ireland’s 2024 vote on whether to keep the protocol in place, they added.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Thursday he does not favor legal action against the British government, but argued London’s unilateral move had damaged trust just when both sides were making progress. It would, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, create “a much more formalized and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve the problems together.”

Downing Street rejected Coveney’s characterization. “We continue to work closely with them [the EU] through the Joint Committee process and remain committed to the Northern Ireland protocol, but we want to address those areas where there are issues that have arisen,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Frost’s move has already angered MEPs. Leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups on Thursday postponed a decision on when to vote to ratify the post-Brexit trade deal, which has still not been formally approved there.

Defending Frost’s opening play on Thursday night, his cabinet colleague Liz Truss told Times Radio: “What we want to do, what Lord Frost wants to do, is sit around the table with the EU, have a proper discussion and make sure that we keep trade flowing between the EU in the U.K.”

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Dining News

How Cookbook ‘Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown’ Got Chinese-American Food on the Page

In the two pages set aside for acknowledgments in Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown, the cookbook’s chef-author thanks Tienlon Ho “for writing this book with me, for qualifying our ideas and for pouring your heart into enriching these pages with Chinatown’s fascinating history.” His name — Brandon Jew — appears on the cover, as you’d expect. But Ho’s does too, which you might not. Jew is the headliner; it’s his restaurant, his story, his cookbook. But at least we know Ho had something to do with writing it. The ghostwriter, or the named writer whose contribution is never really spelled out or fully credited, might be the most exploited of all the talent in the publishing process. But you rarely read about that: A finished book doesn’t tell you the story of its making, and how hard-won the triumph was (or if it even felt like a triumph at all).

I was thinking about this when I received the pre-publication copy for Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown. It’s a sumptuous, archival book that provides a panoramic portrait of one of America’s most vital, storied communities — but it does so through the eyes of a Chinese-American chef who is part of that community and has synthesized its influences and history into both his cooking and his restaurant. Of course, he couldn’t have done it without Ho, who I became friends with when she contributed an essay to the anthology I edited. She is a deeply and precisely thoughtful person, something you can see in her breathtaking prose and hear in any conversation you have with her.

So as soon as the galley arrived, I emailed her. She had lots to say, and I asked if we could pick up our phones for a conversation about how cookbooks get made and, more specifically, what that experience is like from a co-writer’s point of view.

Eater: We can start with the obvious: How did you come to work on this project?

Tienlon Ho: Connecting with Brandon was all thanks to his agent. There were a couple other people who she thought of … I’m pretty sure I was the only Chinese-American person. And then it turned out our whole team (chef, photographer, recipe developer, and me) ended up being Asian American, which is really rare in cookbooks these days.

What really resonated for me was [Brandon] was one of the first young chefs I’ve talked to who takes this idea of grounding his work in tradition really seriously … I’m always worried about this idea of trying to present yourself as this pioneer, and that chef-hero thing that’s like, “I’m the first one to ever do this.” In one of those early conversations, he said something like, “I’m part of this really long lineage. I see myself in this long line of history and I want to somehow get people to understand that.”

At the same time, one of the things that struck me, that was important to both of us, was this idea that you can be grounded in tradition, but also be really innovative. People who cook haute cuisine, [there’s an idea that] they’re inventing things out of nowhere, leading the way with all these new ideas. In the same way that, as a writer of color, I have to ground everything in a personal story, chefs of color are asked to do that all the time, like, “Oh, this had to come from your grandmother. This is exactly how your mom made it.”

I wanted to make sure to protect that aspect of him, which was that he is a creative person, and just because you respect tradition doesn’t mean you’re not thinking of new things and coming up with things that are inspiring and expressive of yourself.

Why do you think he chose you?

We connected in terms of this idea of telling the truth about Chinese-American cooking. We struggled with this and debated, “Is it Chinese food still?” which is what Cecilia Chiang said it was. Or is it just American food? Because we’re all Americans. Brandon’s a third-generation American. There was a way to make this very Chinese — Chinese Chinese. But what he does isn’t Chinese Chinese. It’s Chinese American, and we wanted to make sure that was clear.

But we wanted to show, in a way that maybe only people who are connected to old countries and very old cultures can understand, that you can be American but know so much more about another culture and have that be so much a part of your identity, as well.

What happened with Chinese-American food is that the first people that were able to come here and cook for everyone were from a very teeny, tiny place, Toisan. So what they cooked didn’t represent all of China. In fact, it didn’t even represent all of the province [Guangdong] they were in.

When they got here, and when they were cooking their style of food with the equipment that they had and the ingredients that were available, which were very limited, that whole menu became representative of Chinese-American cuisine. It still is today. It was defined by outsiders and they drew these borders where they didn’t need to. It became called “Cantonese” because it was [from] Canton, they said. So Cantonese food came to represent everybody. There was no other way to try other food because so few people were allowed to emigrate from other parts of China for so long because of Chinese exclusionary laws. … Brandon is Toisanese. His background is a mix, but he remembers a lot of his Toisan roots through his family’s cooking. (I’m a mix of southern, like Brandon, and northern in the same way Cecilia Chiang was, and western — so between us, we’re representing a lot of Chinese cultures.)

We wanted to make sure we described the diversity [in Chinese food] in the way people look at even the same dishes, how they would approach them very, very differently depending on where they were born in China or in the diaspora. There’s no way to represent 200 dialects and so many regions, and the diaspora and all the creativity that’s happened even within [San Francisco] Chinatown itself. But we want to at least show that reality that there’s so much more than you (and we) ever imagined.

What was the initial vision for the book?

We wanted to document this moment in time in Chinese-American food. This is the first book out of Chinatown that focuses on San Francisco’s Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in North America. It’s the first book in [almost] 60 years, as far as I can tell.

What was the cookbook that came before it?

Eight Immortal Flavors. [It was by] Johnny Kan and his co-writer, Charles L. Leong, a pioneering Chinese-American journalist. Kan was this wonderful chef-entrepreneur who basically revolutionized Chinese-American food as we know it. He died in 1972. He grew up with James Beard, in Portland, but he was a poor Chinese kid, and his mom actually cooked for James Beard, and that’s how he got to know James, [who] wrote his intro to this book.

[Kan] came up with the idea of delivery. Before, around Chinatown, the way you would get food delivered is the waiters would carry these heated trays. Kan was like, “You know what, we should take credit cards and have a fleet of cars that are refrigerated. We’d keep everything warm.” He set up delivery all around San Francisco really early on, so he was the takeout revolutionary. And then, he was the one who said, “We should have kitchens open for people to see with windows,” because, at the time, Chinese food was considered really mysterious and people still made jokes (they still do) about rats’ tails and mystery meats and things that they just didn’t understand. [Kan] said, “Why don’t we just show them how we do a technique, show them how clean we work, show them how much goes into this,” and so his restaurants were the first that had open kitchens.

Wow, that’s so cool!

I know, he did so many things … he also was a huge influence on Cecilia Chiang. His whole thing was about service … people who never would have gone to Chinese restaurants flocked to his restaurant. It was a place to be seen.

That was something that we wanted to capture: to talk about the heyday of Chinatown, and all the triumphs, because so much of it is about suffering, because there was so much suffering. But there was so much celebration, too, and innovation, and things that aren’t really remembered because of how history gets written down.

Can you talk a little bit about how you originally planned to structure the book?

Brandon really wanted to have this feeling of understanding where Mister Jiu’s fit into the community of Chinatown. In the proposal, we said we wanted to have all these stories of these people we know, who in some cases did make it into the book.

How much would you say the manuscript resembles what was laid out in the proposal? Is it completely different or is there a through line?

The proposal actually was very much unlike how this book turned out. But the through line is there: It is definitely, like, this is a restaurant in Chinatown and it couldn’t have existed anywhere else because it’s inspired by and rooted in the Chinese-American experience, and that’s what Chinatown is all about.

You basically have three different narrative strains or themes: Chinatown, the restaurant, and Brandon as a chef. How do you make them all fit into a unified whole?

I was thinking about what I had in front of me and how I could see each dish. It was like, “What is the Chinese-American story behind each dish?” And then, “How did Brandon build on that?” Then I started realizing what it really was, was that he’s a representative of his Chinese-American experience and his Chinese-American food is his own Chinese-American food. That is the individual lens through which to look at this larger story of how Chinese food became American food and how we call him a Chinese-American chef, because people before would have just called him a Chinese chef. But we’re in an age now where people recognize a little bit more, I think, I hope, this difference.

Did you receive any pushback from Ten Speed along the way?

The cover. We really didn’t want it to be a dish. We wanted it to be a setting, something that represented the aesthetic of Mister Jiu’s within the context of Chinatown. And we had lots of ideas for that. I mean, what’s more iconic of Chinatown than the window with the barbecue hanging in front of it? … They really wanted a dish. And even then, it was funny. They wanted the fried chicken wings, which is a snack. And it’s a delicious dish, but Brandon was like, “That does not represent in any way.” To him it seemed so cliche and obvious when there were so many other dishes that are slightly more complex. … And chicken wings just wouldn’t cut it. The publishers totally understood that.

And we had some pushback on recipes, on how you cover the “greatest hits” of Chinese-American cuisine. The publisher really wanted to make sure we had potstickers and maybe egg rolls and things like that … these dishes that exist in America but are not cooked by Chinese people, or just wouldn’t be cooked at home. [Brandon] didn’t want to do that either. He wanted to just really represent the food of his restaurant. It might not be stuff that you would normally make at home, but now you can.

If you look at what is most ordered around this country, its General Tso’s. It’s kung pao chicken. It’s sweet-and-sour chicken and sesame chicken. … [Brandon] doesn’t make General Tso’s chicken. But he makes another orange chicken where he boils the gastrique down for two or three hours and it’s that way in this book. You start with, like, a gallon of it —

Oh my gosh.

Yeah. At one point I challenged him on it. I said, “This is not for home cooks. This is really intense.” And he’s like, “Well, that’s why it tastes so good.” I couldn’t really argue with that. To cheapen that would be …. like nearly every other book [written in America] about Chinese food and Chinese-American food.

But isn’t this the paradox of every restaurant cookbook that’s ever been written, which is that one of the reasons you go to a restaurant is to eat food that you wouldn’t make at home, or that’s better than it would be at home? And then here’s this restaurant being like, “Hey, here’s the recipe if you want to make it at home.” I get frustrated when a cookbook isn’t cookable, because I think it’s no longer a cookbook, it’s a book about cooking.

I think we talked about this early on, and I remember you being like, “I’m pushing back because so many of these things you wouldn’t cook at home.”

We decided on a certain percentage. There’s a group, and they’re not labeled this way, but they’re master recipes. He does them at the restaurant exactly [the same way]. … Some of them take at least 10 days.

Oh my god.

Yeah. Well, that’s how long the [roast] duck takes. … I was like, “How should we explain why we’re doing this? Why do you have these master recipes in here?” And he said, “It’s my mission in some ways just to show you the technique that went into this so that there’s an audience for this food in the future.” Because if we all think we can make whatever … you become accustomed to [riffing and taking short cuts], or you find that acceptable, then we lose what little support we have for artisanship in this country. He’s very much a believer of that.

[Brandon’s] role in this restaurant is to keep minds and palates open. [These techniques] don’t have to be lost because no one finds them useful or palatable or there’s no market for them at all. What he fears for Chinatown in general is that people only expect the greatest hits. And it’s impossible, on these small margins, anyway, for these little restaurants to keep going so that they all just make all the same things. People complain about that. They’re like, “Chinatown is just for tourists.” But it’s the tourists who made it that way.

What’s great about this book is that it shows you there’s more to it than the just-for-tourists part. It’s there, if you want to find it. But there’s stuff in here that doesn’t take days to make, right? It’s not all major-undertaking recipes…

The vast majority [are not] … [there] are things that you can do in 10 minutes. I felt like that was really important. He did start to understand too. Sizzling fish is a really good example of an easy recipe that is totally legit … it represents Southern Chinese cooking so well, and yet it’s not that complicated, even though some people might find it intimidating, because it’s a whole fish, but that’s what Chinese cooking is. There’s such a beautiful picture of it; [Brandon] wanted to put that on the cover. [But the publishers] were like, “No, one will buy it, because it has a fish.” Is that true? Did you hear that too?

Yep! It’s a thing. I know you guys worked so hard to make sure you were telling a different story from what we usually see in cookbooks and food media, in correcting the narrative of the colonial hero figure who comes swooping in to “save” or “ennoble” a cuisine and reveal its hidden greatness. But then, the emailed PR text that accompanied the PDF of the galley kind of reduced it to exactly that. It literally included the phrase “realizing its untapped potential.” This happens so often, the disconnect between how the publishers market the book and what’s going on in the book itself. Were you able to have any input there?

We were asked to review it and I did. And I marked it up, and not all the changes were made so I don’t really know.

That seems in keeping with the opacity of the publishing process. There’s a lot authors aren’t privy to, or that isn’t really explained. Related to the marketing stuff, who was your target audience? And how do you imagine people will interact with and use the book? You guys were clearly going for something that isn’t necessarily just like, we want people to take this book home and make all the food in it.

Right. No. And I’ve been thinking about your distinction between cookbooks and a book about cooking. And I think some of these recipes fall squarely in the cookbook idea, but you’re right. It is a book about cooking and I’m not really sure that’s a bad thing.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

Part of the problem is that there’s so little context for Chinese-American food. People don’t know a lot of this history and why and what the Chinese American experience has been, and by having cookbooks that just have the recipes over and over and over, it becomes so much easier to have those problems that we are all trying to be so careful about, like cultural appropriation and this whole idea of disconnecting a food from the people who care about it most and disrespecting that connection. I think we have that connection.

We wanted to offer a foundation for understanding the food as well as making it. That’s why it was important for [Brandon] to have the complexity, and the things that might not work out the first time but that require attention and experience and detail.

At some point, Brandon mentioned some of his chef friends who are extremely skilled but don’t understand Chinese food. And he said, “If they could read this and get something out of it too, I’d be so pleased.” Because he’s tired of having to explain it. And also was just tired of defending it. … He wanted it to be very plain to people who care about what goes into food. To really delight and enlighten at the same time.

Ultimately, we struggled, because … [the publisher wanted] to really try to make this for home cooks. I mean, we did make it for home cooks, but for enthusiastic home cooks who would be the same people who would come to eat at his restaurant.

Something else that you touched on before — there’s the idea that [Brandon] wanted to reach Chinese Americans with the book as much as he wanted to reach people who are not of Chinese heritage, because for a lot of Chinese Americans, a lot of this stuff has been lost. And most of the time, the expectation is that you’re doing a cookbook so that people who aren’t like you can understand your food. So I love this idea that it’s very much for exactly people like him.

Yeah, for posterity, for his children, for people who were disconnected for whatever reason from their past or their roots. There’s a weird thing that happened in Chinatown after the earthquake and the fires: All the records were lost. We usually talk about the records in terms of citizenship papers, but all the newspapers were lost and all the books and all the things that were published in Chinatown.

It’s really hard to find records of the early restaurants that aren’t written by outsiders, by English writers, or non-Chinese Americans or Chinese people, because those are the only ones that survived. That was one of the challenges of doing this too: How do you have these histories that are clearly written by outsiders rather than the people who lived in it, and how would it have been different?

For me, it was important to capture this moment in time. And I wanted to write that down from our perspective of being in Chinatown, rather than wait for someone to write about it.

Yes, and it has an added significance now that Chinatown is once again in danger of disappearing.

Yeah. Already, last January, Brandon and all the restaurants and businesses there felt a change when people stopped coming to Chinatown. By Chinese New Year, it was very clear that there were no crowds and people were not coming — unless they were Chinese American or lived in the community. And then by March, it was shelter in place. The Chinatowns all over the United States have been hit much harder than any other community in terms of impact on their businesses. Some 233,000 Asian-American-owned small businesses closed between February and April, when everything had only just started, at a much higher rate than similar white-owned businesses.

But Brandon was really trying to be optimistic. So for a while, he didn’t want to add anything [about the pandemic] to this book. And then as it became clear that there’s a disparate impact on Chinese Americans in Chinatown, and as more anti-Chinese rhetoric came out, we really felt it was even more important to acknowledge the total change that the neighborhood and restaurant were experiencing, in a short note at the end of the book. But it didn’t make sense to write everything.

But that’s okay too, because then it becomes a record of pre-COVID.

Exactly. We were all so glad that we had this snapshot in time … I mean, his restaurant, the vibe is so energetic. Under normal circumstances, it’s packed. And that’s the whole point of the Chinese banquet meal: to have a big room full of people with lazy Susans, everyone shares these dishes. So, it was a bit of a mourning thing, because [we could] imagine that it could be lost for a long, long time.

That’s the problem with all this white supremacist rhetoric: You forget in all the ways that we are connected and how in being connected, the world’s new ideas come out. Chinatown isn’t just Chinese. But it was because there were so many outside influences, people coming in and wanting a certain dish and Chinese chefs adapting and saying, “Oh, I thought you would like this.”

Can you imagine a world where we didn’t have this connection? And we thought that everything that we did in our own individual silos was good enough? Finishing the book when we did, I thought, this is a record of how great people are when they are together. Not when they’re apart.

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Public Health Experts Slam States’ Moves to Ditch Masks

Other states lifting mask orders are trending better, but on Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said they are not out of the woods, either.

“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said in a press briefing. “These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close,” she said.

Speaking at a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock on Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott said the success of the vaccines along with falling case counts and declines in hospitalizations made it clear that state mandates were no longer needed.

“Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility,” he said. “Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed.”

The problem with that stance, say researchers, is that it’s not enough. The benefit of masks depends on everybody wearing them. Studies have shown that requiring the use of masks makes a difference.

“There’s just overwhelming science on this,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, professor of health policy and management at the Georgetown University School of Public Health. “When mask mandates are imposed, infection rates go down and when mask mandates are lifted, infection rates go up. I mean, we’ve had enough natural experiments over the last year for us to see the impact that this has,” Levi said.

“This is a tragic politicization of our response to the pandemic and the consequences will not be limited to those states,” Levi said.

A study published last month by scientists at the CDC compared the rate of growth in COVID cases across more than 3,000 U.S. counties between June and October of last year. Those with mask mandates were 43% less likely to see a rapid growth in their infections compared to those that didn’t have them.

“Mask mandates can play a substantial role in preventing COVID-19 and could be especially important for persons who are required to work in-person, including essential workers and those working in crowded conditions, particularly in nonmetropolitan areas,” the study authors wrote.

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The Pros and Cons of Sleep Divorce

Create your bedroom to be a sanctuary for sex and for sleep. We have all of these paired associations in our lives. If I were to describe your favorite food right now—let’s say it’s a warm brownie—and I were to talk to you about the smell of the warm brownie, the warm brownie coming out of the oven, what it’s going to feel like when you put the first bite in your mouth…you start salivating. Your body has a reaction to the thought of it. We have thousands of these paired associations that we carry with us throughout the day.

If your bedroom is a place of conflict, clutter, feeling disconnected, feeling vulnerable, sad—if it’s a catchall where you do everything: having a fight with your partner, working, sleeping, sorting laundry—then you don’t have the association of that bedroom being a sanctuary. A sanctuary for sexually connecting with yourself or with your partner or for sleeping soundly.

So to get practical, what I would suggest is avoiding conflict inside the bedroom. If you want to talk to your partner and you feel like it’s a charged conversation, take it out of the bedroom. Both partners need to commit to that fully. Whether that conflict is about sex, sexual disconnection, kids, or money—which are the top things that couples fight about—have those conversations at the kitchen table or anywhere other than the bedroom.

In order to create your sex and sleep sanctuary, think about creating a room that appeals to your five senses. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but try to create something that is beautiful to you and your partner. That may be using certain colors that you like, certain textures of fabric, maybe having plants or soft lighting or anything that’s beautiful to your eye. I think candlelight is a magical way to change the mood. Have sound available, like playlists for sleep or for sex. Have scented candles or incense or something that brings your sense of smell to life. You can activate your sense of touch with texture, whether that be nice sheets or blankets or pillows. I also recommend having massage oil on hand. Lube is a great way to experiment with different kinds of touch in your bedroom and with your partner that can be helpful for both sleep and sex.

Stability and consistency that are facilitated by scheduling can be helpful for both of these super important areas of functioning. Couples often ask me, “How often should we be having sex?” Although that answer is different for every couple, every person, and every stage of life, I generally recommend connecting erotically every seventy-two hours. That could be just kissing. It could be taking a shower together. It could be swinging-from-the-rafters sex. Whatever that looks like. Stability is incredibly important for sleep as well: Waking up at the same time every day and ideally keeping a stable sleep schedule goes a long way.

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Harris kicks off Senate debate on COVID-19 relief, Republicans make nuisance of themselves

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We all know this will merely delay the inevitable. It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard.” He also said he’s “delighted” that the public which already supports the bill will be able to hear all the details of it. “The senator from Wisconsin wants to give the American people another opportunity to hear what’s in the American Rescue plan. We Democrats want America to hear what’s in the plan,” he added. Schumer vowed that the bill will be passed before the week is out, even if that means going into the weekend.


Johnson has every intent of making this go into the weekend, beyond if he can do so. He’s supposedly setting up shifts for Republicans to take to force their amendment votes, so they can’t be dispensed with on voice votes. “I’m coming up with a process that keeps people from tiring out. I’m getting sign ups. I’m laying out a three shift schedule,” Johnson said. How successful that shift work will be at 3 AM Saturday morning remains to be seen, but Sen. Mitt Romney—the “moderate” one—is all for the delaying tactics. That means Republicans are pretty much unanimously opposed to schools having the funds to be reopened safely, for teachers to get vaccinated, for their constituents to get financial help, and food and housing assistance. And maybe get their jobs back.

Because that’s what’s in the plan: all that and more. Senate Democrats have made some substantial changes to the bill passed by the House last week. The most substantive changes are removing the $15/hour minimum wage hike; lowering the cap for the $1,400 survival checks to exclude people making more than $80,000/annually (down from $100,000 in the House bill) or joint filers making more than $160,000 (from $200,000 in the House bill); funding for a bridge in New York and a railway system in California. Unfortunately, an effort by Finance Chair Ron Wyden to extend the $400/week unemployment boost through September failed, and it will expire on August 29. But he did successfully fight off the effort by conservative Democrats to reduce that assistance to $300.

In exchange for some of that, it will provide more funding to rural hospitals and to expanding broadband—so more for rural states represented by Republicans who are opposing the bill. At least Democrats are looking out for Republican voters. It will also provide more funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for helping the homeless, and changes the formula for state and local aid to give smaller population states more money.

Once again, Democrats are looking out for Republican voters. Especially those in Alaska, which will see its fisheries and tourist industry get some added boosts, along with the other small state aid. For all that, Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican senator from Alaska, voted no on the initial procedural vote to bring the bill to the floor. But we’re all in this together, excepting the Republican lawmakers who don’t want any of this to happen.

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Rachel Lindsay Says She Accepts Chris Harrison’s Apology

“I need to accept the apology so we can all be better from this situation.”

Randy Holmes / Walt Disney Television via Getty

“I do accept [his apology] and I think it’s important for me to say that because we need to move forward,” Lindsay said on Extra. “And for me, for us to move forward, I need to accept the apology, so we can all be better from this situation, which is what we want.”

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Lindsay added that more people are starting to become aware of “things that they hadn’t before” and that is creating more “uncomfortable” conversations “that we should be having.”

Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

“Isn’t that what this should be as well?” she said. “It’s bigger than just The Bachelor, it’s bigger than just a reality TV show.”

John Fleenor / Walt Disney Television via Getty

“There are a lot of issues that have come up because of this interview, and I think it’s important that we continue the conversation, we continue to move forward,” The former Bachelorette continued. “And I think that’s the best thing that we can hope for out of all of this.”

Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

Last month, Harrison issued a public apology after he defended Kirkconnell’s past actions. He said, “I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology.”

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