Diplomatic Developments: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surprised international observers this week with a visit to Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The meeting demonstrates that China will likely be a major player as negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program continue. Uri Friedman breaks down what the leaders talked about.
Immigration Debate: The Trump administration announced that it will add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census for the first time since 1950—a move that could undermine the data (and some regions’ political power) if unauthorized immigrants avoid taking the survey. Amid a heated debate over how policy makers should approach undocumented workers, two scholars recently proposed a form of immigrant-labor “sponsorship,” but history suggests that such a plan could go seriously wrong.
Administration Staff: An Atlantic analysis of 2,475 Trump appointees shows a substantial gender imbalance across all departments and experience levels; overall, the men named to government positions by the White House outnumber the women two to one. The man at the top, President Trump, had been uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter and at press events for several days—until he fired David Shulkin, his secretary of Veterans Affairs. Here’s our tracker to follow along with Trump’s Cabinet shakeup.
Behind this divergence lies a straightforward story: The twin forces of globalization and technological change are enriching a handful of big urban areas, while resources are drained from the heartland, leaving it often devoid of opportunity and prosperity. But this neat division, rural versus urban, erases another part of the story of America’s changing economy: the pressure that those twin forces are exerting within cities, pulling some people up to the very top while pushing others to an unforgiving bottom. In some prosperous cities, such as Chicago, where the number of wealthy census tracts has grown fourfold since 1970, people at the bottom are struggling as much as they always have, if not more—illustrating that it’s not just the white rural poor who are being left behind in today’s economy. The disconnect is why Andrew Diamond, the author of Chicago on the Make, has called Chicago “a combination of Manhattan smashed against Detroit.”
In our December 1956 issue, the American hurdler Thomas P. Curtis looked back at the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, which was far less organized than the present-day competition:
The proprietor of our hotel ... explained that it had seemed to him inexpressibly droll that a man should travel 5,000 miles to take part in an event which he had no possible chance to win. Only that afternoon, the Greek hurdler in practice had hung up an absolutely unbeatable record ... the amazing time of nineteen and four-fifths seconds! …
When it came to the high hurdles, I learned how the Greek Threat had managed to spend nineteen and four-fifths seconds in covering the distance. It was entirely a matter of technique. His method was to treat each hurdle as a high jump, trotting up to it, leaping, and landing on both feet. At that, given the method, his time was really remarkable.
Your mention of “tragic imagination” reminded me of the premortem, a risk management approach recommended by [the economist] Daniel Kahneman.
In a premortem, one imagines being in the future and that a decision being considered has led to failure, and thinking of the reasons why. This is a simple approach that frees one to more openly consider risks which might normally be dismissed.
Happy birthday to Daphna’s husband, Norbert (twice the age of Macintosh computers); to Lois’s daughter Amy (a year younger than The Simpsons); to Jason (the same age as the handheld scientific calculator); to Linda’s boss, Lew (a year younger than T-shirts); to Edward (the same age as the Hoover Dam); to Jane’s younger sister Martha (a year younger than Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech); and to Arlan’s brother Avron (a year younger than talkie movies).