White House Is Said to Prepare Order to Withdraw U.S. From NAFTA
The Trump administration is preparing an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a senior White House official tellsThe Atlantic’s Rosie Gray. As presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged to pull the U.S. out of the trade agreement that allows for the free flow of goods and services between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada—an agreement he called the “worst trade deal in history.” In an interview last week with the Associated Press, Trump reaffirmed he would “either renegotiate it or ... terminate it,” clarifying that “If [Canada and Mexico] don't treat fairly, I am terminating NAFTA.” This would not be the first trade actions conducted by his administration. In addition to withdrawing the U.S. from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, Trump imposed a 24 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports, a move some say could mark the start of trade dispute with the U.S.’s second-largest trading partner. More from Rosie’s story:
It’s still unclear what form this executive order will take by the time it is released. And the executive orders in which Bannon has had the largest hand haven’t had a great success rate; the first and second iterations of the travel ban targeting mostly Muslim nations did not stand up to legal challenges.
It’s also unclear whether Trump really can unilaterally pull out of NAFTA without Congressional approval; a recent study by a Canadian think tank concluded that he cannot. But politically, the order could be a signal that Bannon is not a spent force, the nationalist wing remains influential in the White House.
Reversing Course, U.S. Says It's 'Open to Negotiations' With North Korea
The Trump administration says it’s “open to negotiations” with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, just weeks after saying—and restating—the era of “strategic patience” with the North Korean regime was over. Here’s part of the statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats: “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.” The statement was a considerable softening of the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward the North’s regarding its nuclear and missile tests, which are in violation of its treaty obligations, and it came after the White House in an unusual closed-door meeting briefed U.S. senators, all 100 of whom were invited, on the threat posed by the North. Earlier today, Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee the U.S. should act appropriately “in order to bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not his knees.” Six weeks ago, Tillerson said the U.S. would not talk to North Korea, adding “all options” were on the table regarding how the U.S. would deal with the country. That was followed by Vice President Mike Pence saying the era of “strategic patience was over.”
President Trump signed Wednesday an executive order to review national-monument designations made by previous administrations in an effort to return certain federal lands to private use. “The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time that we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said Wednesday ahead of the order’s signing. Under the 110-year-old Antiquities Act, presidents have the authority to unilaterally establish national monuments to protect cultural, historic, and natural resources on federal land—one which the Obama administration used more than any of his predecessors, creating the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and expanding the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument in the Pacific. Under Trump’s latest order, both monuments, as well as any national monument designated after January 1, 1996, that spans at least 100,000 acres, could be subject to revision or lose their designation altogether. But rescinding a national monument could prove difficult. Such a move is unprecedented and would likely face legal challenges.
The Trump administration unveiled a plan it said would overhaul the U.S. tax code by reducing the number of tax brackets and deductions while providing tax cuts to corporations and individuals. One of the highlights of the plan is a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, which President Trump has argued would make U.S. companies more competitive. (Gillian White wrote about it here). The plan would eliminate most deductions except for mortgage interest and charitable donations, and double the standard deduction that individuals can claim. Read more here.
Conservative Commentator Ann Coulter Cancels Berkeley Speech
Ann Coulter, the conservative commentator, announced Wednesday she was canceling her talk at the University of California, Berkeley, after she lost the backing of campus groups sponsoring the event. In an email to Reuters, Coulter said “there will be no speech,” adding: “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team.” The event was postponed last week by university officials amid safety concerns, citing the violent protests that broke out last month when former Breitbart editor Milo Yianopoulos visited the campus. Though school officials suggested to the event’s organizers that it be rescheduled for a later date, Coulter reaffirmed her plans to move forward with the event as planned, telling Fox News, “What are they going to do, arrest me?” The Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republics, which sponsored the event, announced Tuesday they could no longer sponsor the speech. The groups, in a lawsuit filed that same day, accused the university of trying “to restrict conservative speech.”
France Says There's 'No Doubt' Assad Regime Made Sarin Gas Used in Syria Chemical-Weapons Attack
A French intelligence report released Wednesday concludes the sarin gas used in a chemical-weapons attack in Syria earlier this month “bears the signature” of the Assad regime. The report says the nerve agent matched samples taken during another chemical-weapons attack launched by Bashar al-Assad’s military in 2013, and came from the same stockpile of weapons the Assad regime was supposed to have destroyed under a deal brokered that year by the U.S. and Russia. “There’s no doubt that sarin was used,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday after presenting the report to the French defense council. “Now there’s no longer any doubt that the Syrian regime was responsible.” The April 4 attack in Idlib province killed dozens of people, prompting the Trump administration to launch missile strikes against a Syrian airbase from which the planes that carried out the chemical attack reportedly took off. Syria and Russia, Assad’s main backer, say Syrian rebels are responsible for the attack—despite evidence to the contrary.
United Airlines said Wednesday it’s investigating the circumstances behind the death of a large rabbit on one of its transatlantic flights. Annette Edwards, a rabbit breeder, toldThe Sun Tuesday that Simon, the 10-month old continental giant rabbit, was confirmed to be healthy three hours ahead of his flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare, where he was traveling to meet a new owner. It is unclear when Simon died during the more than eight-hour journey, during which he was traveling in the cargo section of the plane, as is common with animals. Continental giants are considered one of the largest rabbit breeds, and Edwards said Simon, who was three feet long, was expected to grow to be the world’s largest. She added: “I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before.” United Airlines said it was “saddened” by the news and would review the matter, adding in a statement “the safety and wellbeing of all animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team.” The incident follows weeks of global backlash against the airline after video surfaced of a passenger being forcibly removed off one of United’s flights by law enforcement—an event that left the 69-year-old traveller with a concussion, a broken nose, and two lost teeth.
Turkish Airstrikes Kill 6 Kurdish Militants in Iraq
Turkey struck targets Wednesday in northern Iraq, killing six Kurdish fighters in its second day of cross-border fire. The air strikes come a day after the U.S. expressed deep concern the strikes were being conducted “without proper coordination” with the U.S. and its coalition partners. In a press briefing Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Turkish airstrikes “were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against ISIS that includes members of the Kurdish Peshmerga.” Iraq also condemned the Turkish strikes in its Sinjar region as a violation of its sovereignty. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters Ankara informed the U.S., Russia, and Iraq ahead of its operations Wednesday, adding he would not allow the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey, the U.S., and the EU regard as a terrorist organization, to operate in Sinjar.
China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier Wednesday at the northeastern port of Dalian—a move that comes amid rising tensions over its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. The country’s second aircraft overall, the new carrier joins the Liaoning, a Soviet-era carrier China bought secondhand from Ukraine in 1998. The launch of the new aircraft carrier, which is expected to be operational by 2020, comes amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, which China claims. Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency the aircraft “will help to strengthen our capability to safeguard national sovereignty, territorial integrity, as well as major and core interests.”
Here’s what the aircraft looks like:
Nearby ships blow their horns to salute China's newly-launched aircraft carrier at Dalian Port Wed morning pic.twitter.com/aCUuvINbmz
Turkey Arrests More Than 1,000 People in Latest Crackdown
Turkish authorities have arrested 1,000 people and are seeking more than 2,000 others in connection with last year’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The move comes weeks after Erdogan, who has governed Turkey since 2003, was granted sweeping powers in a closely contested national referendum. Critics of the president say he has crushed dissent following the coup attempt, but Erdogan and his supporters allege the existence of a “deep state” that includes followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric. Indeed, today’s arrests were targeted at what authorities said was a secret setup within the police force. Hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested or lost their jobs since the June 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.
U.S. Moves Part of THAAD Anti-Missile System to South Korea, Prompting Criticism
The U.S. military began moving parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea. The earlier-than expected deployment of the anti-missile defense system drew a sharp response from China, prompted protests in South Korea, and criticism from the leading candidate in the upcoming South Korean presidential election. It is also likely to provoke North Korea, which views any such move as an act of aggression. The U.S. and South Korea say THAAD is meant to deter North Korea, which routinely fires missiles that are capable of hitting targets in the South. But China, whose help the U.S. needs to influence North Korea over its aggressive military posture, says the anti-missile system compromises its own security. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the move worsens “regional tensions and harm[s] China’s strategic security interests,” adding: “China will resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests.” Local residents in Seongju, South Korea, protested the arrival of the system Wednesday. Moon Jae-in, the center-left candidate who is expected to win the May 9 election, also criticized the move, saying the next government should have had a say when and whether THAAD would be deployed. The U.S. and South Korea agreed to deploy THAAD last year. The system is expected to be operational by the end of this year.
In France, where I live, the virus is under control. I can hardly believe the news coming out of the United States.
I returned to Paris with my family three months after President Emmanuel Macron had ordered one of the world’s most aggressive national quarantines, and one month after France had begun to ease itself out of it. When we exited the Gare Montparnasse into the late-spring glare, after a season tucked away in a rural village with more cows than people as neighbors, it was jarring to be thrust back into the world as we’d previously known it, to see those café terraces overflowing again with smiling faces.
My first reaction was one of confused frustration as we drove north across the river to our apartment. The city had been culled of its tourists, though it was bustling with inhabitants basking in their reclaimed freedom. Half at most wore masks; the other half evinced indifference. We were in the midst of a crisis, I complained to my wife. Why were so many people unable to maintain even minimal discipline?
These aren’t Hillary Clinton’s numbers. Biden has a wide lead because the landscape has changed.
Recent polls could hardly be more reassuring for voters who want to be done with Donald Trump. “Biden Builds Largest Lead This Year,” a CNN headline declared. “Biden Hits 55%–41% Against Trump in Biggest National Poll Lead Yet,” reported TheDaily Beast. “Republicans should be petrified by the polls,” a Washington Post opinion piece asserted. Yet the polls also frighten Democrats who, four years ago, got their hopes up amid favorable numbers for Hillary Clinton.
Noting reports that Joe Biden holds a healthy lead in Michigan—one of three Rust Belt states in which Trump narrowly upset Clinton—Representative Debbie Dingell told participants in a recent online Democratic campaign event, “I don’t believe these numbers.” And Dingell, who introduced herself at the event as “Debbie Downer,” has standing to dispute polls that look rosy for her party. In 2016, she’d warned me that the Clinton campaign was going badly in Macomb County—the suburban home of the white, working-class, Catholic voters whom my research decades earlier had labeled “Reagan Democrats.” Dingell’s fear that Clinton could lose Michigan was borne out.
What if a single, cheap, easy-to-administer, and race-neutral policy could help close the country’s chasmic racial wealth gap in less than a generation?
Reader, it exists. It is called a baby-bond program. For something like $80 billion a year—roughly 2 percent of the annual federal budget, less than a tenth of the annual cost of Social Security—the United States could not only end its most pernicious forms of poverty, reduce wealth inequality, improve social mobility, foster self-sufficiency among poor families, and increase family net worth en masse, but also put black and white families on more equal footing.
There is a strong moral case for doing that, and a strong economic case, too. The average white family is 10 times wealthier than the average black family. Black families with kids have a single penny in wealth for every dollar that white families with kids have. And white high-school dropouts have a higher net worth, on average, than black college graduates. Black individuals cannot close this gap on their own. Washington created the wealth gap. Washington needs to fix it.
Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coping with a pandemic is one of the most complex challenges a society can face. To minimize death and damage, leaders and citizens must orchestrate a huge array of different resources and tools. Scientists must explore the most advanced frontiers of research while citizens attend to the least glamorous tasks of personal hygiene. Physical supplies matter—test kits, protective gear—but so do intangibles, such as “flattening the curve” and public trust in official statements. The response must be global, because the virus can spread anywhere, but an effective response also depends heavily on national policies, plus implementation at the state and community level. Businesses must work with governments, and epidemiologists with economists and educators. Saving lives demands minute-by-minute attention from health-care workers and emergency crews, but it also depends on advance preparation for threats that might not reveal themselves for many years. I have heard military and intelligence officials describe some threats as requiring a “whole of nation” response, rather than being manageable with any one element of “hard” or “soft” power or even a “whole of government” approach. Saving lives during a pandemic is a challenge of this nature and magnitude.
There’s an immediate, narrow problem for the White House, and a broader, more strategic one. In the short term, the very tight “yes” vote imperils a plan to turn Medicaid funding into a block grant from the federal government to states, using Oklahoma as a pilot.
In a deeper sense, though, the vote is a warning sign for Trump, because it shows how he’s at odds with even many conservative voters on health care. Last week, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court (again) to throw out the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, voters in a state so red that the president chose it for his big comeback rally have voted to adopt an expansion of coverage under the law—the fifth time voters in a Republican-governed state have done so, and the fourth in the past two years.
Higher education is often described as an investment. But it’s still unclear if it pays off in happiness.
“How to Build a Life” is a biweekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
I magine a young man, a senior in high school. His academic performance has never been over the top, but he’s done well enough. Among his classmates, the assumption is that all of them will go to college. However, just as his parents are about to send the deposit check to a college where he has been accepted, the young man admits to himself and his parents that he doesn’t want to go—not now, maybe never. To him, college sounds like drudgery. He wants to work, to earn a living, to be out on his own.
What should he do? What should his parents do?
This is not a hypothetical situation for many families—and it wasn’t for mine, either. Our oldest son was valedictorian of his high school class and went to a top university. But right about this time two years ago, our second son told us he wasn’t interested in college. My wife and I consider ourselves free thinkers and are willing to entertain almost any new idea. But we are hardly neutral on the college question: I am a college professor; my father was a college professor; his father was a college professor, too. Some say college is different from real life. For our family, college is real life—it’s the family business.
We need to know the facts about kids and COVID-19. Now.
Given that bars and restaurants in many parts of the United States are beginning to reopen, while the prospects for school remain hazy almost everywhere, you might think that scientific evidence about kids and the coronavirus is nonexistent. The truth is that we are still somewhat in the dark, but not completely. Here’s what we know, what we kind of know, and what we need to do to know more.
Back in February and March, when the pandemic was in its early stages, the big question was whether kids were at high risk for COVID-19. It wouldn’t have been surprising if they were; other respiratory diseases such as the flu are known to significantly affect both children and the elderly. But one of the robust findings about COVID-19 in the past few months is that children are among the least affected groups. They are less likely to contract the disease, and if they do contract it, they are more likely to have a mild or asymptomatic case. Death rates are much lower. This evidence doesn’t mean that kids cannot get sick, and or cannot fall seriously ill, but older adults are far more susceptible.
American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.
If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world.
Astronomers have been tracking fast radio bursts for years, but they’ve never caught one like this before.
For about four days, the radio waves would arrive at random. Then, for the next 12, nothing.
Then, another four days of haphazard pulses. Followed by another 12 days of silence.
The pattern—the well-defined swings from frenzy to stillness and back again—persisted like clockwork for more than a year.
Dongzi Li, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, started tracking these signals in 2019. She works on a Canadian-led project, CHIME, that studies astrophysical phenomena called “fast radio bursts.” These invisible flashes, known as FRBs for short, reach Earth from all directions in space. They show up without warning and flash for a few milliseconds, matching the radiance of entire galaxies.
The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and other states are doing the same.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons.