The 6 songs that explain Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore

“It started with imagery,” wrote Taylor Swift in the preamble to Folklore, her eighth studio album. “Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity.”

Among them: scars and battleships. Trees and sunshine. Wine and whiskey. And cardigans. Enough cardigans that one became the subject of an entire song.

Swift announced Folklore less than 24 hours before its July 24 release, giving few hints about its contents. The one thing she did make clear, through an overhauled social media presence full of new, black-and-white photos of her, was that Folklore would have a well-defined aesthetic we haven’t seen …

How Taylor Swift reset her image with Folklore

On Thursday at midnight, Taylor Swift dropped her surprise quarantine album, Folklore, with only 17 hours’ notice. It’s been greeted with rave critical reviews. The Guardian gave it five stars. “This one won’t require an album-length Ryan Adams remake to convince anyone that there’s songwriting there,” said Variety. Rolling Stone called it “headspinning,” “heart-smashing,” and Swift’s “greatest album — so far.”

The rapturous acclaim Folklore has amassed is a sign that the press is at last ready to make nice with Swift after years spent debating her pop culture villainy and/or victimhood. And it suggests that Swift, …

Join the Vox Book Club!

Here’s how the Vox Book Club works: Every month, we pick a book. Throughout the month, we publish discussion posts containing thoughts and questions from Vox book critic Constance Grady, but we also have comments turned on and moderated so you can share your thoughts, too. Talk among yourselves! Post your opinions and questions! Or use our discussion posts as a jumping-off point for (socially-distanced) discussions with your own friends and family. And at the end of the month, we gather on Zoom for a virtual live discussion.

Our pick for July is Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham, an alternate history …

Fact-checking the alternate history and politics of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham

The Vox Book Club is linking to Bookshop.org to support local and independent booksellers.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Rodham postulates a theory: If Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton, the past 30 years of American politics would be fundamentally changed — sometimes subtly, and sometimes in huge, world-bending ways.

Rodham isn’t a political treatise or textbook that’s aiming for documentary levels of realism in the political events it tweaks. It’s a work of fiction that uses the real-life Hillary Clinton to examine ideas about power, gender, and the role of charisma in politics, and most of the changes to real …

China is systematically detaining Uighurs — and the world isn’t doing enough about it

In China’s Xinjiang province, Uighur Muslims are being detained and held in what are effectively concentration camps, where they’re subjected to human rights abuses, including torture, forced sterilization, and brainwashing.

But no one seems to be doing much about it at the international level.

On this week’s episode of Worldly, Vox’s weekly international podcast, senior correspondent Zack Beauchamp, international security and defense reporter Alex Ward, and senior foreign editor Jennifer Williams discuss why the international response to the Uighur crisis has been muted — and why it deserves much more attention and action.

The Uighurs are a …

Portland, polarization, and the crisis of the Republican Party

Late on Wednesday evening, Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) was tear-gassed in his own city.

Wheeler was visiting the main site of the city’s ongoing protests, which have devolved into violent clashes with the police for weeks, to try to understand their grievances. Seemingly out of nowhere, as-yet-unidentified law enforcement personnel unleashed gas on the crowd — while the mayor was still in it.

“I saw nothing that provoked this response,” Wheeler told a New York Times journalist on the scene.

According to the Times, the officers who launched the gas were not local police. Instead, they …

Companies are quietly rolling back pandemic-related perks and benefits

At the outset of the pandemic, Eva was pretty impressed with how the Texas Starbucks where she works sprang into action. It offered $3 an hour in hazard pay for those who came in and “catastrophe pay” for workers who stayed home.

“At first, I think they did really well,” she said.

But things have changed. The pay bump wound down at the end of May, after which workers were offered three choices: keep their jobs at likely reduced hours, take an unpaid leave of absence through September, or take a separation package. Her store has since started back …

More people in the US are hospitalized with Covid-19 than ever before

More Americans are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 than at any prior point in the pandemic, a grim milestone that indicates the coronavirus pandemic is not slowing down in the US.

On July 22, 59,628 people across the United States were in the hospital after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to data collected by the Covid Tracking Project; that total surpassed the previous daily high of 59,539 on April 15, when the New York City area was the epicenter of the US outbreak.

Christina Animashaun/Vox

Covid-19 has migrated across the country to many more regions in the three …

Clear usually helps people speed past the TSA line. Now it’s offering a Covid-19 screening service.

Open Sourced logo

Now that airports are emptier than they’ve ever been, the air travel security platform Clear is adapting its technology for new pandemic-centric purposes. On Thursday, the NHL announced that it would be using the tech to screen players and staff during the playoffs, and earlier this month, the employees of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum started using the screening platform to allow staff back onsite. The new moves are a sign that Clear wants to use its tech to get people back to work — and back to big events.

The basic premise is that regular screenings using …