BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Vivian Yee, NYT Middle East correspondent

By POLITICO Staff

How/where are you celebrating your birthday and with whom? “Probably the same way as everyone else this month: over the internet, which does offer the advantage of allowing me to invite friends in many time zones. I might even get dressed for the occasion!”

How did you get your start in journalism? “I’ve gotten lucky with a pretty straightforward path: high school newspaper to college newspaper -- I was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, like Michael Barbaro and Rory Gilmore -- to a summer internship on the Metro desk of the Times, where I've been ever since.”

What’s an interesting book/article you’re reading during coronavirus social distancing? And why? “The first coronavirus casualty, for a lot of us, was our ability to plan ahead for anything. This week’s birthday drinks, next month’s trip, the wedding in May, the carefully plotted move. I hadn’t realized how much I took that for granted, how much of my sense of well-being and forward motion depended on marking things down in a calendar. That hit me all the harder when I read this short essay by Ali Araghi about growing up in Iran, where political instability or some capricious turn of government was forever screwing up his life plans, and then moving to the U.S., where for the first time he heard people talking casually about the future.”

What’s a trend going on in the U.S. or abroad that doesn’t get enough attention? “This gets plenty of attention in Middle East circles, but seems worth giving a boost: American policy has favored sanctions over military intervention in Syria -- which, by the way, is experiencing its worst humanitarian catastrophe of the war as the Syrian government and Russia retake Idlib Province chunk by chunk -- but there are many questions about whether there’s anything to be gained from further broad sanctions on the Syrian government, which has never changed its behavior, or if they’re just making life even harder for Syrians who have already been through nine years of war and economic collapse.”

How’s the Trump presidency going? “Ask me in two months?”

What’s a fun fact that people in Washington might not know about you? “I’ve led a fairly boring, law-abiding life. But I did get myself kicked out of Saturday Chinese school when I was 8 for reading English books under my desk.”