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.
The White House again wants to expel certain groups of protected immigrants, a reversal after backing away from the policy months ago.
Updated at 10:20 a.m. on December 13, 2018.
The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades—many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War.
This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows—the White House had hesitantly backed off the plan in August before reversing course. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.
The onetime graduate student admits to being a foreign agent who sought to establish back channels to Republicans through the NRA.
The first Russian to be convicted of trying to infiltrate and influence American policy makers in the run-up to the 2016 election walked into a courtroom on Thursday with her head held high, gazing defiantly at the audience that had gathered to watch her plead guilty.
Wearing a green prison uniform over a billowy long-sleeved shirt with two large holes in each elbow, Maria Butina affirmed to a judge in the Washington, D.C., district court that between 2015 and 2018 she acted with another American, under the direction of a Russian official, as a foreign agent to “establish unofficial lines of communication” with influential politicians—back channels she sought to establish, primarily, by hobnobbing with Republicans at conventions hosted by the National Rifle Association.
Wisconsin built a public higher-education system that was admired around the world. But it may not withstand a tech-hungry economy.
For many years, Wisconsin had one of the finest public-university systems in the country. It was built on an idea: that the university’s influence should not end at the campus’s borders, that professors—and the students they taught—should “search for truth” to help state legislators write laws, aid the community with technical skills, and generally improve the quality of life across the state.
Many people attribute the Wisconsin Idea, as it is known, to Charles Van Hise, the president of the University of Wisconsin from 1903 to 1918. “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every family of the state,” Hise said in an address in 1905. “If our beloved institution reaches this ideal it will be the first perfect state university.” His idea was written into the mission of the state’s university system, and over time that system became a model for what public higher education could be.
If voters are freighting politics with religious significance, we need to drain it of the expectation of transcendence.
TOKYO—Five years ago in a hipster coffee shop in Oakland, I met with a representative of Master Ryuho Okawa, a Japanese spiritualist who claims about 11 million followers. The representative—he said he was the “foreign minister” for Okawa’s church—asked if I believed in extraterrestrial life. I said yes. “Good,” he said. He then asked if I believed that aliens had visited Earth. “Maybe,” I said. “Maybe they’re here right now!”
“Maybe,” he replied, in a meaningful tone, “they have come here, and some of them or their descendants are still here.”
“Maybe you’re one of them!” I replied.
This time he paused, gravidly, not breaking eye contact or changing his expression. “Yes. Maybe.”
I was reminded of this close encounter of the third kind last week when reading Andrew Sullivan’s column on “America’s New Religions.” Sullivan blames Trumpism and the death of American liberalism on a spiritual crisis. “Liberalism is a set of procedures, with an empty center,” he writes. Religion once provided the feeling of spiritual satiety that allowed us to be content with the hollowness of liberal politics, which are fundamentally procedural rather than meaningful. The meaning came from Christianity. Having scorned religion, though, we now seek a religious mode of politics, and some of us have transformed Trump, like Augustus Caesar before him, into a god.
The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and personal lives—and what we can do about it.
I. An Angry Little Town
Soon after the snows of 1977 began to thaw, the residents of Greenfield, Massachusetts, received a strange questionnaire in the mail. “Try to recall the number of times you became annoyed and/or angry during the past week,” the survey instructed. “Describe the most angry of these experiences.” One woman knew her answer: Recently, her husband had bought a new car. Then he had driven it to his mistress’s house so she could admire the purchase. When the wife found out, she was livid. Furious. Her rage felt like an eruption she couldn’t control.
The survey was interested in the particulars of respondents’ anger. In its 14 pages, it sought an almost voyeuristic level of detail. It asked the woman to describe the stages of her fury, which words she had shouted, whether punches had been thrown. “In becoming angry, did you wish to get back at, or gain revenge?” the survey inquired. Afterward, did you feel “triumphant, confident and dominant” or “ashamed, embarrassed and guilty”? There were also questions for people like her husband, who had been on the receiving end: “Did the other person’s anger come as a surprise to you, or did you expect that it would occur?”
Many families who opt out of buying stuff are coming up with creative alternatives and new traditions.
This year, Heather Hund and her family will gather in West Texas on December 25 and solidify a new Christmas tradition, in which each relative is randomly assigned to give a gift to another family member and to a house pet. “The rules are basically a regift for the human and then $10 for the pet,” Hund told me. “And my 18-month-old son got put in [the latter] category too, so it’s small humans and small animals.”
Hund and her family downscaled their gift-giving six years ago after considering how much work Christmas shopping was. “I just remember coming home and being super stressed and last-minute trying to run out to the mall or looking online and seeing what I could get shipped in like three days,” said Hund, who’s 35 and works in tech in San Francisco.
Members of the House of Representatives are raising concerns over the White House’s reinterpretation of a decade-old deal with Vietnam.
Updated at 4:02 p.m.
Opposition is building against a Trump-administration plan to allow certain groups of protected Vietnamese immigrants to be deported, a day after The Atlantic reported that the U.S. is reinterpreting an agreement with Vietnam that shielded some of them from being moved out of the country.
In the latest sign of growing worry over the efforts, a group of at least 22 members of Congress have signed a letter addressed to the White House, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, to express “deep concern” over attempts to rework the 2008 accord between the U.S. and Vietnam. John Kerry, a former secretary of state and Vietnam War veteran, echoed those concerns, calling the shift “despicable.” That deal protected Vietnamese nationals who came to the United States before July 12, 1995, and committed crimes during their time in the U.S., from the threat of deportation. That specific date, which was when Washington and Hanoi established diplomatic relations, covered those fleeing the Vietnam War. In essence, the Trump administration has now said it believes that the agreement allows for a wider number of Vietnamese migrants to be deported.
Charlie Santore sees Los Angeles from the inside, by breaking into safes whose owners can no longer unlock them.
The house was gone, consumed by the November 2018 Woolsey Fire that left swaths of Los Angeles covered in ash and reduced whole neighborhoods to charcoaled ruins. Amidst the tangle of blackened debris that was once a house in the suburbs northwest of Los Angeles, only one identifiable feature stood intact. It was a high-security jewel safe, its metal case discolored by the recent flames, looming in the wreckage like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I went out to the burn zone that day to meet Charlie Santore, a 48-year-old safecracker licensed in the city of Los Angeles under the name Santore & Son. Santore, a lean and towering figure just shy of 6 foot 4, stood there in his fedora, black jeans, and a Virgin Mary T-shirt, grinning uncomfortably. He was flanked by two Ventura County sheriff’s deputies. They had been patrolling the neighborhood that day, in the wake of the still-active wildfire—its apocalyptic ash cloud hanging in the sky south of us—when they noticed this gangly man crouched in the ruins, with several drills and extension cords at the ready. Santore’s car, a 1997 Mercedes so overloaded with safecracking equipment that its trunk nearly scrapes the ground, was, from a law-enforcement point of view, not reassuring.
Research suggests that elite colleges don’t really help rich white guys. But they can have a big effect if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy.
This year, more than 2 million Americans will apply to college. Most will aim for nearby schools without global brands or billion-dollar endowments. But for the tens of thousands of families applying to America’s most elite institutions, the admissions process is a high-cost, high-stress gantlet.
American parents now spend almost half a billion dollars each year on “independent education consultants,” and that’s not counting the cost of test prep or flights and hotels for campus visits. These collegiate sweepstakes leave a trail of frazzled parents and emotionally wrecked teens already burdened with rising anxiety, which raises a big question: Does it really matter whether you attend an elite college?
The president has few innocent explanations left for what looks like a conspiracy to violate campaign-finance laws.
The president is running out of alibis.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, financial fraud, and violating campaign-finance laws in accordance with facilitating almost $300,000 in hush-money payments he made to women who said they had affairs with the president. Cohen, prosecutors said, “made or caused both of these payments in order to influence the 2016 election and did so in coordination with one or more members of the campaign.”
Separately, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York announced that it had reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer. AMI acknowledged as part of that agreement that it deliberately bought the rights to a story from a woman who said she had a relationship with Trump “to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”