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.
Other groups made a bigger splash, but Blondie was a true genre chameleon.
No decade is dominated by a single genre of popular music, but the 1970s was arguably more motley than most. What is the sound of the ’70s? Is it … folk rock? (Neil Young’s Harvest turned 50 last year.) Progressive rock? (Prog’s nadir, Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans, was released in 1973 and promptly crashed under its own weight.) How about disco? Punk? Post-punk? New wave? Reggae? Rap? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. And what do we do with Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, one of the 10 best-selling albums of the decade? Is bombast a genre?
But if you were to drill down through the decade and pull up a core sample of ’70s pop, it would come up Blondie—and would look, in fact, very much like the band’s eight-disc box set, Against the Odds: 1974–1982, which is nominated for the Best Historical Album Award at this weekend’s Grammys. As the academic and artist Kembrew McLeod has written, Blondie was a mediator between the experimental music and art scene of downtown New York City and the larger pop audience. But more fundamentally, I’d argue, the group was also a conduit and popularizer of a wide variety of new rock and pop sounds.
Expect Donald Trump to blame his own party if the Republicans’ debt-ceiling gambit goes wrong.
Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET on February 2, 2023
House Republicans are preparing for a big confrontation with the Biden White House over the debt ceiling—a confrontation that could, if played wrong, collapse the U.S. financial system and drag down the world economy. President Joe Biden has been preparing for this fight since 2011, the last time Republicans tried a similar trick. That year, the doomsday device was switched off seconds before it detonated by an agreement on a sequester that automatically cut spending on defense and domestic programs with little regard to merits. Even so, the S&P rating agency downgraded U.S. debt below triple A for the first time, and the stock markets spasmed. The sequester was ultimately jettisoned by Republicans during the Trump years.
Long hours on the job can temporarily ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. But you’re better off leaving the office and facing your feelings head-on.
“How to Build a Life” is a column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
Winston Churchill was many things: statesman, soldier, writer. He was one of the first world leaders to sound the alarm about the Nazi menace in the 1930s, and then captivated the global imagination as a leader against the Axis powers in World War II. While prime minister of the United Kingdom during the war, he kept a crushing schedule, often spending 18 hours a day at work. On top of this, he wrote book after book in office. By the end of his life, he had finished 43, filling 72 volumes.
Churchill also suffered from crippling depression, which he called his “black dog,” and which visited him again and again. It seems almost unthinkable that he could be so productive in states so grim that he once told his doctor, “I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything.”
Artificial intelligence could spare you some effort. Even if it does, it will create a lot more work in the process.
Have you been worried that ChatGPT, the AI language generator, could be used maliciously—to cheat on schoolwork or broadcast disinformation? You’re in luck, sort of: OpenAI, the company that made ChatGPT, has introduced a new tool that tries to determine the likelihood that a chunk of text you provide was AI-generated.
I say “sort of” because the new software faces the same limitations as ChatGPT itself: It might spread disinformation about the potential for disinformation. As OpenAI explains, the tool will likely yield a lot of false positives and negatives, sometimes with great confidence. In one example, given the first lines of the Book of Genesis, the software concluded that it was likely to be AI-generated. God, the first AI.
You’re probably sick of reading about him. Now you know how the ancient Mesopotamians felt about Methuselah: Jeez, 969 years old—how many more hot takes do we need about when that priest is going to retire?
What we witnessed in the past year was the undead phase of Brady’s football career. The actual human version of that career ended, possibly, after his Super Bowl win with the Buccaneers, in 2021 or, more probably, with his short-lived retirement early in 2022. But Brady shambled on, liminal, cadaverous, desiccated (compare his sunken, middle-aged cheeks of 2023 with the chubby baby face of his early seasons), his demeanor on the field alternately forlorn and enraged. But as fans of TheWalking Dead or The Last of Us know, the undead can be lethal.
The 29-year-old deserved more chances to observe life’s ordinary miracles.
Vincent van Gogh’s painting Willows at Sunsetis a dazzling kaleidoscope of twilight. The canvas is awash in orange and yellow brushstrokes, as if the painter meant to depict the world ablaze. An asymmetrical sun hovers in the background while beams of light shoot across the sky. Terra-cotta grass leans in the wind that I imagine van Gogh felt slide across his cheek. Three pollarded willows rise up from the earth and bend like bodies frozen mid-dance. Shades of black expand across their barren trunks, as if they are about to be swallowed by the oncoming night.
The piece, painted in 1888, wasn’t originally meant to be shared with the world. The wide brushstrokes on the canvas have led art historians to believe that van Gogh painted the image quickly, perhaps as a sketch for another work—the artist’s attempt to capture the majesty of a sunset before it slipped beyond the horizon.
A nascent scientific field is working to untangle the complex relationship between metabolism and infection.
When it comes to treating disease with food, the quackery stretches back far. Through the centuries, raw garlic has been touted as a home treatment for everything from chlamydia to the common cold; Renaissance remedies for the plague included figs soaked in hyssop oil. During the 1918 flu pandemic, Americans wolfed down onions or chugged“fluid beef” gravy to keep the deadly virus at bay.
Even in modern times, theinternetabounds with dubious culinary cure-alls: apple-cider vinegar for gonorrhea; orange juice for malaria; mint, milk, and pineapple for tuberculosis. It all has a way of making real science sound like garbage. Research on nutrition and immunity “has been ruined a bit by all the writing out there on Eat this to cure cancer,” Lydia Lynch, an immunologist and a cancer biologist at Harvard, told me.
Subscriptions such as HP’s Instant Ink challenge what it means to own our devices.
The first rule of at-home printers is that you do not need a printer until you do, and then you need it desperately. The second rule is that when you plug the printer in, either it will work frictionlessly for a decade, or it will immediately and frequently fail in novel, even impressive ways, ultimately causing the purchase to haunt you like a malevolent spirit. So rich is the history of printer dysfunction that its foibles became a cliché in the early days of personal computing.
After years of holding out, my family finally succumbed to a pandemic inkjet purchase. (Like many, we were doing a lot of online shopping in 2020, which meant a lot of return labels.) I girded my loins for the agony of paper jams, phantom spoolererrors, and the dreaded utterance “Driver not found.” What I did not expect, however, was for my printer to shake me down like a loan shark.
In my senior Southern Literature class, I’m about to teach Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner’s great novel about how racism has warped America. I ask my students to think about the stories Faulkner tells: the dispossession of the Chickasaw people, the enslaved woman who drowns herself in despair, and the white family struggling to accept that the admired patriarch who built their Mississippi cotton kingdom also raped his own daughter. Here at Florida State University, in the capital city of the third state to join the Confederacy, I ask them to consider the ways our troubled past haunts our precarious present. I start writing dates on the board—1619, 1830, 1863—and I wonder if somebody will accuse me of breaking Florida law.
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Let’s say you’re a politician in a close race and your opponent suffers a stroke. What do you do?
If you are Mehmet Oz running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, what you do is mock your opponent’s affliction. In August, the Oz campaign released a list of “concessions” it would offer to the Democrat John Fetterman in a candidates’ debate, including:
“We will allow John to have all of his notes in front of him along with an earpiece so he can have the answers given to him by his staff, in real time.” And: “We will pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby.”