What We’re Following

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday directing colleges to promote free speech on campus. The administration has, for years, sought to take action on campus speech, motivated by the guise that right-wing voices are being stifled on college campuses. But the executive order essentially restates what institutions of higher education are already required to do: More than anything, it’s red meat for Trump’s MAGA base.

European Union leaders are now allowing a short few months’ extension to the March 29 Brexit deadline—if Parliament votes through the withdrawal deal next week. If that fails (and it’s failed before), EU leaders propose a much shorter extension, until April 12. But March 29 isn’t a meaningful date in itself, as Yasmeen Serhan has reported. It’s the act of postponement that will have consequences.

Announcing U.S. foreign policy via Twitter is no longer surprising under the Trump administration. On Thursday, President Trump fired off a tweet declaring a change in an American policy on the highly disputed territory of the Golan Heights: The U.S. should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area Israel annexed in 1981. (Last year, Trump reversed another long-standing policy, moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.) Thursday’s announcement is awkward for many of the U.S.’s Arab allies, but it was no impulse tweet.

You’ve been reading news reports for months that the Mueller report is really wrapping up. (Take the latest from the Associated Press: “Waiting for the final Mueller report and what happens next,” accompanied by a fuzzy stakeout shot of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his car.) Two reminders: The final findings might not be released to the public in the form that the word report connotes, and “wrapping up” could mean at least four different things.

Saahil Desai and Shan Wang


Evening Reads

Apple's wireless headphones can't seem to hold a charge

(Beck Diefenbach / Reuters)

Apple’s AirPods are expensive yet convenient, tangle-free yet prone to loss. But these headphones suffer from the same big flaw that most newfangled electronics do: rapidly diminishing battery life.

Waste is one of the inherent features of a consumer-spending-driven economy: Companies keep selling things in order to post profits, consumers keep buying them because they have disposable income, and our standard of living improves. There is little apparent downside when consumers throw things away—trash disappears from office buildings and apartment buildings overnight.

But lithium-ion batteries are different from other waste. Tossing them in the trash can create fires at waste-management facilities. And unfettered consumption has big upstream costs: The more devices with lithium-ion batteries that aren’t recycled, the more companies have to mine the finite resources that go into those batteries. Most lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, which is often mined in terrible conditions in the developing world.

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Nazis Have Always Been Trolls: They rely on murderous insincerity and the unwillingness of liberal societies to see them for what they are

(Edgar Su / Reuters)

The New Zealand shooter mined the depths of the far-right internet to pack his manifesto, much of it violent, troll-y text knowingly written for an audience. Nazis, too, weaponized their insincerity, Adam Serwer writes:

The original Nazis were open about their intentions, but their strategic insincerity created a fog of doubt that allowed observers to avoid the obvious. In 1922, The New York Times infamously declared that many believed “Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.”

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Urban Developments

"Vessel," a 150-foot structure of climbable interlocking staircases, is the photogenic focal point of New York's new Hudson Yards.

(Courtesy of Michael Moran for Related/Oxford)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Gracie McKenzie shares today’s top stories:

Amsterdam is considering a new housing law in an effort to fight growing unaffordability: If you buy a newly built house, you’ll have to live in it yourself.

An alien arriving on Earth this month might be forgiven for assuming that Thomas Heatherwick is currently the world’s most beloved urban designer, writes CityLab’s Feargus O’Sullivan. But frankly, many of Heatherwick’s projects—like Hudson Yards’ “Vessel”—stink.

In Washington, D.C, there’s a running joke ... that you can literally outrun a streetcar. The CityLab writer Linda Poon made an attempt last month. Here’s what happened.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Subscribe to the CityLab Daily newsletter.


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