President Trump signed two executive orders on Friday, aimed at assessing the fairness of U.S. trade deals. The move represents a more cautious approach from when Trump, as presidential candidate, promised to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he called “the worst trade deal ever.” The first order Trump signed calls for a 90-day study to look country-by-country, product-by-product, at abuses that contribute to the U.S. trade deficit. The study would serve as a template for rule- and decision-making when the administration evaluates how to reorganize trade deals. The second order will step up duties collected from countries the U.S. finds to be dumping products at below production costs, often done with heavy subsidies from their governments. The orders come a week ahead of Trump’s meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, which Trump has accused of taking advantage of the U.S. Trump has called the U.S. trade deficit—more than $500 billion last year—a job-killer, and has said he will renegotiate deals like NAFTA to put American interests first. But more so than trade deals, economists have pointed to the increased robotization of factories as the major cause for lost factory jobs. At the signing ceremony Friday, after taking a few questions from the media, Trump abruptly left without actually signing the order. Vice President Mike Pence instead picked up the document and chased after the president.
The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits...
Closing the 85-year-old facility will be a “long and arduous” process, de Blasio said in a statement, adding “our success in reducing crime and reforming our criminal justice system has paved a path off Rikers Island and toward community-based facilities capable of meeting our criminal justice goals.” De Blasio said the project would require cutting the jail’s nearly 10,000-person population in half, as well as constructing several smaller facilities to replace it. The announcement follows the formation last year of an independent panel commissioned to examine the facility, which, as The New York Times reports, recommended the jail be demolished and replaced with new jails built in each of the city’s five boroughs. More details from the commissions findings are expected to be announced Sunday.
A Federal Judge Approves a $25 Million Trump University Settlement
A federal judge on Friday approved a deal for President Trump to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits against him over Trump University, the defunct real-estate education program created by Trump. The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in the Southern District of California, ends seven years of legal battles, with class-action suits in New York and California. The cases came to national attention during Trump’s election campaign, with plaintiffs saying they’d signed up to learn Trump’s real-estate investment secrets, but instead forked out thousands of dollars for worthless information that could be found free online. Trump had refused to settle the suits, and even promised to reopen the university once he won the court battle. At one point, he complained that Curiel could not possibly oversee the case impartially, because of the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage. Trump later apologized for this comment, reversed his stance on the lawsuit, and after he won the election in November agreed to settle for $25 million. That figure comes to about 90 percent of the money his university took from customers. Not everyone is happy, and there were two plaintiffs who objected to the settlement, one on the grounds that Trump owed them an apology.
Germany Says NATO's Spending Target Neither 'Reachable nor Desirable'
Germany called the 2-percent spending goal for all NATO allies neither “reachable nor desirable” Friday in response to repeated calls by the U.S. for members of the military alliance to meet their financial commitments. “Two percent would mean military expenses of some 70 billion euros,” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, said at a NATO meeting in Brussels, where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in attendance. “I don’t know any German politician who would claim that is reachable nor desirable.” His remarks follow repeated demands by the U.S. that NATO members fulfill their treaty obligations and contribute 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense spending by 2024—a goal that five of the NATO’s 28 members have met. Germany spends about 1.2 percent of its GDP on defense. Tillerson said Friday all allies should by May “either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how … the pledge will be fulfilled.” He also reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to the alliance—one which President Trump has previously criticized as “obsolete,” having at one point appeared to suggest that U.S. commitment to the body should be predicated upon its members’s defense spending. But Trump reaffirmed his “strong support for NATO” this month during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also reaffirmed support for NATO and Germany’s commitment to the the 2 percent spending target. She said: “Last year we increased our defense spending by 8 percent, and we’re going to work together again and again on this.”
The Wall Street Journal and others reported last night that Mike Flynn, President Trump’s national-security adviser, old the FBI and congressional investigators he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for immunity from prosecution. As Matt Ford wrote: “Why does someone request immunity from prosecution before speaking with federal investigators? That question will likely consume Washington in the weeks ahead after Thursday night’s bombshell...” Robert Kelner, Flynn’s attorney, said: “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.” But The New York Times cited an unnamed congressional official as saying investigators are not willing to broker a deal “until they are further along in their inquiries and they better understand what information Mr. Flynn might offer as part of a deal.” But as Matt wrote last night: “A request for immunity isn’t an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. It may be sought by witnesses who fear that their words could be used against them, as a condition of their testimony. … But the move could also be a purely prophylactic measure.”
The European Union is suggesting a “phased approach” to Brexit in which it will discuss a trade deal with the U.K. only when there’s sufficient progress made on the nature of their separation. The EU’s draft plan, which was released today in Brussels, must now be approved by the bloc’s 27 other members (the U.K. remain the 28th member until its separation from the EU is final; the process is expected to take at least two years). The release of the plan comes two days after the U.K. invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, the process by which Brexit negotiations formally begin. The U.K. wants talks on its exit and trade relations to be discussed simultaneously. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said in Malta that “will not happen.” “Only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal can we discuss the framework for our future relationship,” he said.
In its penultimate episode of the season, the show delivered a sleepy collection of surface-level sketches.
Playing a prince tasked with choosing a bride from among three princesses on Saturday Night Live last night, Mikey Day asked a question that turned out to define the episode well: “Okay, is that it?” He raised the inquiry in a sketch poking fun at the rule of three in folklore. His options included a beautiful princess and a smart princess, which meant that something had to have been wrong with the third princess. The prince kept waiting for some unexpected twist, but each princess kept her answers brief—and bland—in the buildup to the quick prop gag that concluded the scene. The colorless bit highlighted SNL’s recent difficulty with developing memorable sociocultural comedy alongside timelier fare.
An inspiring research project went viral for the wrong reasons.
Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, “will be a thing of the past,” according to Carmel Harrington, a sleep researcher at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, in Australia. A press release describes her new study, out this month, as a “game-changing” effort and a “world-first breakthrough” that could prevent future deaths from the tragic illness. Celebrations quickly spread on social media: “THEY FOUND THE CAUSE OF SIDS. Excuse me while I cry for all the parents,” one viral tweet declared. “Closest thing to a miracle in a long time,” said another. The press soon picked up the story. On Friday, a segment on Good Morning America touted Harrington’s “very, very important study” of SIDS, while a story in the New York Post promised that her data would “bring closure to countless parents who have endured the nightmare of losing a child.”
A shadow box above Rebecca’s dining-room table, hanging there since 2006, displays an autographed copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean script—signed by Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Johnny Depp. Though Rebecca, at age 36, is emphatically no longer a Depp fan, she says she keeps the script on her wall as a conversation starter. If someone asks about it, maybe she’ll go into the full story, rather than pretending she never liked Depp. “Also it’s not like it’s his smug little face,” she told me.
That face is everywhere right now, on account of Depp’s ongoing and highly public lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The case is complicated, and the testimony is rife with sordid, disturbing details. In short, Depp has taken Heard to court for defamation over a 2018 essay she published in The Washington Post that identified her as a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Heard also made abuse allegations when she filed for divorce from Depp in early 2016, and was granted a restraining order against him.
Strategic prudence argues in favor of pocketing successes rather than pressing the fight and running the tantamount risks.
The war in Ukraine is entering a more dangerous phase. Even though Russia appears to have downsized its goals after Kyiv blunted Moscow’s initial invasion, the Kremlin is now determined to enlarge the chunk of eastern and southern Ukraine that it grabbed in 2014. Meanwhile, NATO allies are pouring in arms, providing intelligence, and savoring the prospect of a “victory” that entails expelling Russia from Ukraine.
With both sides doubling down, NATO must engage in a forthright dialogue with the Ukrainian government about its goals and how best to bring the bloodshed to a close sooner rather than later. Russia has already been dealt a decisive strategic defeat. Ukrainian forces have rebuffed the advance on Kyiv and retain control of most of the country; the West has hit Russia with severe economic sanctions; and NATO has reinforced its eastern flank, while Finland and Sweden now seek to join the alliance. For NATO and Ukraine alike, strategic prudence argues in favor of pocketing these successes rather than pressing the fight and running the tantamount risks.
A good marriage is no guarantee against infidelity.
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“Most descriptions of troubled marriages don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends. He is a phenom at work, fucking handsome, attentive lover, fit, and generous to everyone, including my parents. My life is good.” Yet Priya is having an affair. “Not someone I would ever date—ever, ever, ever. He drives a truck and has tattoos. It’s so clichéd, it pains me to say it out loud. It could ruin everything I’ve built.”
In their new account of the 2020 election, two New York Times reporters reveal just how broken American democracy has become.
Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin are star political reporters for TheNew York Times, and their scoops in This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future have already made headlines. But the book is more interesting than just for perishable news that will attract ogling Washington insiders. It’s a document of decline and fall—a chronicle that should cause future readers to ponder how American leaders in the early 21st century lost the ability and will to govern. Step back from the page-by-page account of congressional Republicans’ desperate grasping for Donald Trump’s favor or the Biden administration’s struggle to pass its legislative agenda: You’re confronted with a world of almost unrelieved cowardice, cynicism, myopia, narcissism, and ineptitude, where the overriding motive is the pursuit of power for its own sake. It’s rare that a politician thinks about any cause higher than self-interest.
A striking proportion of Americans doesn’t have one. Nontraditional families are left uniquely vulnerable.
The chances are reasonable that you’ll die before making a will. According to most studies, fewer than half of American adults report having a last will and testament that lays out how they want their property divided up, among other final wishes. Though some portion of that group opts for alternative types of estate planning, while others might draft a will late in life, many just never get around to designating their heirs at all.
The stakes can be surprisingly high. If you don’t plan for your demise, you relinquish control of your last wishes to a rickety, decades-old bureaucratic process that will do it for you—and may not include some of the people closest to you. For these cases, every U.S. state has laws that automatically designate their heirs—sometimes called “intestate-succession laws.” These laws differ slightly depending on the locality, but they tend to create a familiar hierarchy for inheritance. If the person has a spouse, the spouse is the first inheritor, and gets much (if not all) of their estate—a cache that may include a house, a stock portfolio, personal items, and more. If they’re not married, the children will become the first inheritors. If they have no children, their biological parents or biological siblings are next in line. In almost no states do non-married, nonbiological family members receive any inheritance if access isn’t explicitly laid out in a will.
The 6-foot-8 goateed Senate candidate prevailed in the Democratic primary less on the strength of detailed policy proposals than on vibes.
Even if you don’t know a single policy he supports, chances are good that you know what John Fetterman looks like. Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor is larger than life at 6 foot 8, distinctively bald with a salt-and-pepper goatee, and draped in a baggy shirt or hoodie. Oh, and he’s a shorts guy too.
Fetterman easily won today’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, and will run in November in a race that could decide control of the chamber. (He experienced a stroke on Friday but says he is expected to make a full recovery.) Some people consider it distasteful to focus on a candidate’s aesthetics over their message, but in Fetterman’s case, aesthetics ispart of the message, and the message has resonated with Keystone State voters.
Crimean Tatars have long helped shape Ukraine’s sense of self as a vibrant multiethnic, multiconfessional, multilingual place.
In May 2020, the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan stood before a crowd of battle-hardened Ukrainian marines at a base in Mariupol, roughly 40 miles from the Russian border. The soldiers had been holding the line for six years against Russian proxies in the Donbas, and Zhadan had come to boost morale with some poetry.
Glancing down at a tablet in his right hand, he recited a selection of his Ukrainian-language verse with well-worn confidence, as if he had known the audience forever. His last poem of the day had the urgent cadence of a telegraph:
How did we build our homes?
When you stand beneath winter’s skies
And the heavens turn and float away,
You understand you need to live where you are not afraid of death.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”