Footage went viral this week of a woman, apparently from the United States, telling off some Hong Kong protesters for desecrating their city with protest posters and graffiti.

“Is this OK? Is this respectful?” she asks, pointedly gesturing to a defaced nearby wall, before trailing off with a tone-deaf trump card, “If my mother saw me write this…”

The woman then questions Hongkongers about the aims of their protests, which are now in their 16th week. The protests started over an extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China, but they have expanded to embrace broader demands for more liberty and self-government.

Hong Kong is technically part of China, but the city’s citizens are allowed far more freedom—including freedom of the press and the right to elect some of their legislators—under the “one country, two systems” policy, which will be sunsetted in 2047. Many Hongkongers fear being placed under authoritarian Chinese rule, knowing that on the mainland censorship is the norm, the Communist Party must be appeased at every twist and turn, and political opponents get disappeared (often before showing up on state-run TV with a tearful coerced confession or histrionic display of remorse).

“Find me one case where violence led to a solution,” the woman in the video challenges the Hongkongers. “What a waste of time for everybody,” she says of the demonstrations. In fact, the protests have had at least one significant, if tentative, success: Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, conceded one of the movement’s five demands three weeks ago by withdrawing the bill that set off the protests.

“You guys value freedom more than safety. Do you agree? I think safety is more important than freedom,” the American says. “If you have a safe environment, you can communicate.”

But it’s freedom of speech that lets people be free of legal retribution for the words they say. It’s freedom of speech that allows people wide latitude in how they express themselves, and where, and to whom. A “safety” enforced and ensured by an authoritarian police force is a fickle promise if you piss off the people in charge, and it doesn’t necessarily mean safety for everyone. Sometimes one person’s feeling of safety comes at the expense of other people’s freedoms. Hongkongers, attempting to keep Beijing’s influence at bay, are keenly aware of this.

“China’s thinking is safety is more important than freedom,” the woman claims, before beginning to chip away at posters with her nail. “We shouldn’t do this! This is my city, too!”

At one point she speaks something that sounds like Cantonese. So she could be an expat living in Hong Kong, concerned about the degree to which the city’s been torn apart by civil unrest. But her safetysplaining makes it clear that she either doesn’t understand or just doesn’t care about how high the stakes are. One gets the impression that she hasn’t had her freedom seized for the sake of someone else’s safety.

Under full Chinese rule, Hongkongers will get neither freedom nor safety. An authoritarian regime that forces subservience to the party cannot be trusted to provide either one.

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2019-09-27 18:00:02

An off-duty Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed an unarmed, apparently developmentally disabled man in a confrontation in a Costco in June will not face criminal charges for his actions.

A grand jury declined to indict Salvador Sanchez for shooting and killing David French, 32, after the two of them had a brief and vague fight in a Costco in Corona, California.

French was apparently the aggressor, but he was unarmed. According to multiple accounts of the incident, French, with no provocation, struck Sanchez on the back of the head while they were waiting in line at a food sample station. Sanchez says he was holding his infant son in his arms when he was knocked down suddenly and briefly knocked out. His lawyer, David Winslow, said that when Sanchez reawakened, he believed he was “fighting for his life.”

Sanchez fired 10 shots, killing French and critically injuring French’s parents.

After the encounter, French’s family came forward to explain that French was nonverbal, intellectually disabled, and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Family members said French had no history of violence but had recently been prescribed a new medication.

A security camera in Costco captured part of the encounter, but a court order barred its release until a grand jury decided against an indictment on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the video, which can be viewed here, is not terribly illuminating. It does not show Sanchez shooting French, but it does show French and a family member falling—likely his father, who said he attempted to intervene between his son and Sanchez—to the floor as Sanchez, off-screen to the left, shoot at them.

It is worth noting that the video appears to show the Frenches as moving away from Sanchez and not attempting to move aggressively toward him. And Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin has said that less than four seconds elapsed between the point where French knocked Sanchez down and Sanchez got up and began shooting. Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that Sanchez was 20 feet away from the men when he began shooting, while still sitting on the floor after being knocked down.

Hestrin could decide to prosecute Sanchez even without the grand jury indictment. But he does not intend to, because 12 of the 19 members of the grand jury said they didn’t see enough evidence to justify charges.

Meanwhile, the LAPD is doing its own administration investigation to determine whether Sanchez’s decisions were appropriate under department policy.

Everybody involved in the shooting sees this as a tragedy, and nobody is arguing that French deserved to be shot and killed. The question is whether Sanchez’s use of lethal force was justified given the situation.

Would this response be the same if Sanchez were not a police officer? California political leaders are quick to implement tight gun controls and to give officials the power to seize citizens’ weapons. It’s hard to fathom a Californian who is not part of law enforcement getting to shoot an unarmed man in a massive store while people ran away screaming without so much as a slap on the wrist.

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President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan have reached a deal that promises to cut tariffs and boost trade between the two nations. That’s good news. But the agreement is also a disappointing reminder of a better deal that could have been.

The pact, announced Wednesday, is an undeniably positive development for American businesses and a rare pro-trade maneuver from the Trump administration. Japan agreed to reduce or eliminate tariffs on many American agricultural exports, including beef, pork, corn, and some fruit. In return, the U.S. will reduce tariffs on Japanese industrial products, bicycles, flowers, tea, and other items. The deal also bars either country from raising duties on digital products, such as streaming videos, music, and video games.

A joint statement issued by the two leaders states that the agreement is a step toward settling other tariff-related issues—a signal that Trump’s threat of hitting Japanese-made cars with tariffs could be off the table now.

“This is a huge victory for America’s farmers, ranchers, and growers,” Trump said at a press conference announcing the deal. “And that’s very important to me.”

Indeed, increasing access to Japanese markets could be a $7 billion boost for American farmers—who have been hit particularly hard by Trump’s trade wars, which have sharply reduced exports to China. But American farmers could already have had greater access to Japan, and to a number of other countries around the Pacific Ocean, if Trump had not yanked America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shortly after taking office.

Trump’s opposition to the TPP, a 13-nation trade agreement the Obama administration was trying to put together, was supposedly rooted in his belief that the bilateral trade deals he promised to negotiate would be better for Americans. But the very agricultural tariff reductions Trump is trumpeting as a victory for American farmers in his Japan deal were also part of the TPP.

In other words, if the U.S. had remained in the TPP, American farmers would already be benefitting from lower tariffs on beef and pork exported to Japan. And they would have greater access to other nations too. Trump is celebrating the benefits of a single trade pact when he could have had much more.

“It really is a pretty small-scale trade agreement,” says Clark Packard, a trade policy counsel with the R Street Institute. “The TPP was a better deal than this. It encompassed a lot more areas of trade. It had more members, it was more expansive, and we wasted a lot of time and effort to get to this point.”

The TPP would have eliminated 18,000 tariffs that the partner countries currently impose on American exports. It also would have included soybean exports, which are notably not part of the U.S.–Japan deal.

The TPP was not perfect. Like any trade deal, it would have set rules that favored some politically connected U.S. exporters. It was hundreds of pages long, much of which was dedicated to trying to impose American labor, environmental, and intellectual property rules on other countries. In an ideal world, politicians and bureaucrats would have no role to play in the trade between people and businesses, no matter how many national borders are crossed in the process. If Trump wanted to scrap the TPP in favor of simpler deals that merely reduced tariffs and other barriers to trade, that would have been an improvement.

Instead he has done the opposite. He has raised tariffs on many imports—which means hiking taxes on American consumers and businesses—and his decision to abandon the TPP deprived American businesses of new opportunities in Asian markets.

Signing a trade with Japan is a small step in the right direction, but it only cancels out a portion of the damage Trump has done. “It’s better than the status quo,” says Packard, “but not as good as it could have been.”

 

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2019-09-27 17:00:35

Google handles 88 percent of search traffic in the United States. Facebook has more than 2.4 billion active monthly users worldwide. Half of all U.S. online retail is projected to go through Amazon by 2021.

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for breaking up the tech giants, holding them legally liable for what others say on their platforms, and imposing new regulations that would stop them from misusing their customers’ personal information. But there’s also a growing movement, which includes some of the web’s early pioneers, to come up with technological ways to counter Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Google.

The goal is to build a better, more decentralized web.

“There are so many different possible ways of decentralizing the internet, and what’s lacking is the legal right to interoperate and the legal support to stop dirty tricks from preventing you from exercising that legal right,” says Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author and tech journalist who’s been thinking and writing about the web since Tim Berners-Lee introduced it to the public in the early 1990s.

Berners-Lee and other web pioneers intended for their creation to be decentralized and open-source. “The cyber-utopian view was not merely that seizing the means of information would make you free, but that failing to do so would put you in perpetual chains,” says Doctorow.

There are many theories about why the web became centralized. Doctorow largely blames the abuse of intellectual property law to defeat the decentralized “free software” movement championed by the programmer and activist Richard Stallman. Stallman helped create the popular open-source operating system Linux after freely modifying Unix, Bell Labs’ proprietary system.

But the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, became an impediment to the open and permissionless approach to software development. The law was intended to prevent duplication of copryrighted works and was eventually applied to all software. Breaking “digital locks” to learn from, interact with, and improve upon the code of dominant web platforms became a federal crime. It’s standard practice for today’s tech companies to shield their proprietary code from would-be competitors by wielding the power of an increasingly expansive intellectual property regime.

“And so this thicket of exclusive rights around products that can be invoked to prevent new entrants for making add-ons, compatible products, or even competing products is a really important change in the landscape,” says Doctorow. “One that has made it very hard for new entrants to emerge and I think is in large part responsible for the concentration in the industry.”

Despite these legal and political challenges, innovators are attempting to create new decentralized ecosystems of web services.

Mitra Ardon is the head of decentralization at the Internet Archive, a digital repository of more than 50 petabytes of images, movies, and texts—including more than 330 billion webpages.

“The archive’s mission is to make all of mankind’s knowledge available online forever to everyone for free, which is a pretty big vision, right?” says Ardon.

He says the history of the web is too important to be held in custody by a single organization. So he’s overseeing a plan to migrate the Internet Archive’s more than 50 million gigabytes of data to a distributed network maintained by users.

A beta version of this peer-to-peer network is already operating and publicly accessible.

“I think what [a more decentralized web] would look like is a world where servers were everywhere, that your internet router at home would also be a server,” says Ardon.

Doctorow doesn’t think the decentralized web can take off without government intervention. He agrees with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) that the Federal Trade Commission should break up the tech giants.

“[The tech giants] got giant doing what we used to ban and that we stopped banning right when the tech industry started,” says Doctorow, who argues that Ronald Reagan and the federal courts undermined the original intent of the Sherman Antitrust Act during the 1980s using the legal theories of former federal judge Robert Bork:

Every president since Reagan has expanded Bork’s doctrine, allowing for even more aggressive market concentration, producing a country (and a world) where a handful of firms dominate virtually every industry, from telcoms to talent agencieswrestling to eyewear, to Big Tech

But in the October 2019 issue of Reason magazine, economist Thomas Hazlett argues that sweeping antitrust action has often entrenched existing players, largely due to the phenomenon of regulatory capture:

The late Nobel laureate George Stigler started as a “bust ’em up” guy: In 1952 he wrote an article in Fortune stating the “case against Big Business” and calling for the dissolution of General Motors. But through observation and analysis, Stigler’s view progressed until he arrived at an antitrust policy that gave dynamic forces their due and put consumer interests at the center. He came to see government institutions as imperfect, and he posited in a 1971 paper the theory of “regulatory capture,” whereby “regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Arguments about antitrust aside, the technological tools needed to bring about a more decentralized web may already exist, though they’re not yet widely implemented.

“Web 3.0 has this wonderful set of trust baked into the Internet itself,” says Molly Mackinlay, a former Google programmer and a current project lead of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a communications protocol that’s meant to replace the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) that most of us use to access the web now. While HTTP connects your computer to a particular server, IPFS scours the network for a piece of content, which gets assigned a unique ID marker and connects you to whomever happens to be hosting it.

Mackinlay wants a decentralized web that relies less on centralized servers and more on distributed storage networks—such as Filecoin, a cryptographic token that rewards users for storing data. This, she says, would be an effective way to sidestep the dangers of censorship and overregulation.

“That’s a better, safer, more resilient world, which doesn’t end up…susceptible to authoritarian manipulation and control,” says Mackinlay.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Alexis Garcia, John Osterhoudt, and Weissmueller. Opening graphic by Lex Villena. Additional graphics by Meredith Bragg.

Photo credits: Preston Ehrler/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Polaris/Newscom, ITU Pictures (under CC Attribution 2.0 License), Jeremy Hogan/Polaris/Newscom. 

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The sticker appears to be a version of this:

But of course this is constitutionally protected, given the Court’s decision in Cohen v. California (1971) that a jacket bearing the words “Fuck the Draft” was constitutionally protected. Indeed, it’s not even barred by the relevant Tennessee statute (Tenn. Code § 55-8-187), which reads,

To avoid distracting other drivers and thereby reduce the likelihood of accidents arising from lack of attention or concentration, the display of obscene and patently offensive movies, bumper stickers, window signs or other markings on or in a motor vehicle that are visible to other drivers is prohibited and display of such materials shall subject the owner of the vehicle on which they are displayed, upon conviction, to a fine of not less than two dollars ($2.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00). “Obscene” or “patently offensive” has the meaning specified in § 39-17-901 [which restates the First Amendment test for obscenity, and defines “patently offensive” as “that which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in describing or representing such matters,” apparently referring to sexual matters.

The word “fuck” in this context doesn’t fall within the First Amendment obscenity test, as the Court recognized in Cohen:

This is not … an obscenity case. Whatever else may be necessary to give rise to the States’ broader power to prohibit obscene expression, such expression must be, in some significant way, erotic. It cannot plausibly be maintained that this vulgar allusion to the Selective Service System would conjure up such psychic stimulation in anyone likely to be confronted with Cohen’s crudely defaced jacket.

The same logic applies here; indeed, the Tennessee Attorney General’s office has acknowledged (Tenn. Op. Atty. Gen. No. 88-44) that

The [statute] will not reach bumper stickers that are in extremely poor taste but are not obscene [under the Supreme Court’s obscenity precedents]. For example, bumper stickers such as “s..t happens,” although unquestionably in poor taste, do not meet the constitutional or statutory standards for obscenity because they do not appeal to the purient interest. Consequently, they cannot be banned as obscene.

See also Cunningham v. State (Ga. 1991) (“Shit Happens” bumper sticker constitutionally protected).

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2019-09-27 16:00:34

Yet another study has concluded that the hoops U.S. women must currently jump through to obtain birth control are unnecessary. In “A Study of Telecontraception,” published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers show that it can be safe to get a birth control pill prescription through online consultation and then receive the medicine.

The researchers employed “secret shoppers” to seek birth control prescriptions online, with some indicating conditions that would make it unsafe to take certain brands or, in some cases, to take any oral contraceptive at all. The study was limited—it involved seven women, nine companies, and 63 virtual visits between October 2018 and March 2019. But the results are promising.

In almost all cases—93 percent—the providers followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Oral contraceptives were prescribed in just three out of 45 visits with potential red flags. That, the authors say, suggests “adherence to guidelines among telecontraception vendors may be higher than it is among clinics that provide in-person visits.”

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine letters section yesterday, the authors—Tara Jain, Eleanor B. Schwarz, and Ateev Mehrotra, all of Harvard Medical School—define telecontraception as “the provision of contraception through a website or smart-phone app” and note that it has “recently emerged as an alternative to provision at clinic visits.” Some of their findings:

Each visit lasted a mean of 7.5 minutes, during which patients completed an online  questionnaire. Two vendors provided a video call during the visit immediately after patients completed the questionnaire. In 20 visits (32%), a follow-up interaction occurred in the form of text messaging with three vendors, a phone call with two vendors, and a video call with one vendor. Three vendors did not require patient–provider interaction. A prescription was sent electronically to a local pharmacy on the same day as the visit or mailed to the patient’s home within a mean of 7 days (range, 3 to 14 days). The mean total cost (including the initial visit and any required follow-up visits) for a 12-month prescription for an uninsured patient was $313 (range, $67 to $519).

Yesterday was also “World Contraception Day,” marked by a push to make birth control pills available over-the-counter. Activists aim to “free the pill” from doctor’s visits, prescriptions, and trips to the pharmacy. It’s a policy that many medical professionals have recommended, it could go a long way toward curbing unintended pregnancies, and it could truly expand access (not just insurance coverage) when it comes to birth control.

Emergency contraception has for years been available without a prescription. But politics and bureaucracy have prevent the same from happening with regular birth control pills.

This week the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated its 2012 recommendation to say that not just the pill but all forms of hormonal birth control, include vaginal rings and contraceptive patches, should be available over the counter.

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The Duke-UNC Chapel Hill Consortium for Middle East Studies (CMES) is fighting to retain a federal grant after the U.S. Department of Education accused the group of displaying a disqualifying bias against Christianity and Judaism. While the department’s decision is a potential affront to free speech and academic freedom, it’s also a great example of why the federal government shouldn’t dole out such grants to anyone.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opened an investigation in July at the behest of Rep. George Holding (R–N.C.), who alleged that a recent consortium conference, titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities,” was rife with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments. Holding wanted a CMES grant revoked.

In 2018, the Office of Postsecondary Education awarded CMES a four-year grant for $235,000 as part of a program meant to train U.S. students to become global leaders. Students who participated in the program told The Daily Tar Heel that they disagree with the accusations made by Holding and the Department of Education. Maggie Barkowitz, a Jewish graduate of UNC Chapel Hill who attended several events at the CMES, said that she never encountered any anti-Semitism. The focus on Islam made sense from her vantage point, as the university’s department is called the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies⁠. She also noted that her classes weren’t biased against any particular religion.

In an August letter to the consortium, the Department of Education alleges that “most of the Duke-UNC CMES activities supported with Title VI funds are unauthorized.” Such funds should be spent only on preparing participants for roles in diplomacy, national security, international business, and education, and the Duke-UNC Chapel Hill Consortium offers “very little serious instruction preparing individuals to understand the geopolitical challenges to U.S. national security and economic needs but quite a considerable emphasis on advancing ideological priorities,” the department says. In short, CMES is too pro-Islam.

In a letter to Robert King, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education, the Duke-UNC CMES tried to dispel the notion that its activities disqualify it from federal assistance. “The Consortium deeply values its partnership with the Department of Education and has always been strongly committed to complying with the purposes and requirements of the Title VI program,” writes Terri Magnuson, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Research.

Reactions have been predictably polarized. One such response came from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which argued against the Department of Education. “The federal government may fairly condition the award of funds on the satisfaction of certain criteria,” FIRE wrote in a statement, “but determining how best to satisfy grant terms that involve academic or pedagogical judgments, especially those which contain ambiguity, should remain the province of the academy.” Some of the requirements are too vague, they say, like assessing ideological “balance.”

The pro-speech group is not wrong. It is difficult to fairly measure fairness. Such judgments hinge on who is doing the judging. But if it is impossible to measure the wider social benefit of a concentrated subsidy, why are tax dollars paying for it?

We ask this question of all kinds of subsidies. Tax credits for Hollywood studios and professional sports teams are considered by economists to be a waste of money. Government subsidies for firearms manufacturers would likely offend half the country, and that’s before you take into consideration they’ve been secured by lawmakers who favor gun control! Pick a subsidy, take a poll, and you’ll find some group of people who find that subsidy offensive, useless, or otherwise objectionable.

Add our bloated national debt on top of that, and people have good reasons to question the merits of funding programs like the one run by Duke and UNC, two well-funded, untaxed, elite universities with endowments valued at $8 billion and $5 billion respectively.

Why not do away with these grants altogether? Let the market determine which programs are actually preparing the diplomats of tomorrow and encourage philanthropists to fund the programs that can’t quantify their value. This spares taxpayers the frustration of funding policies and programs they don’t like or understand and the people at CMES and other academic institutions the awful position of justifying their existence to culture-warring bureaucrats. Government, meanwhile, can and should stick to the provision of basic services.

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2019-09-27 14:35:44

A former Dallas cop is fighting a murder charge in court this week. Last September, she shot and killed a neighbor in his own apartment after mistaking his home for her own and assuming he was an intruder. Even though she was the actual intruder, she is claiming she killed the man in self-defense.

The ex-cop, Amber Guyger, is battling one count of murder for killing Botham Jean. If convicted, she faces anywhere from five to 99 years in prison. She was initially charged only with manslaughter, but after further review of the evidence a grand jury later indicted her for murder. The trial began Monday and is expected to run about two weeks.

Jean had been sitting on his couch eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream when he heard Guyger enter his apartment. According to Guyger’s defense attorney, Robert Rogers, Jean was startled by the sudden intrusion, shouted “Hey! Hey!,” and rose from the couch. Guyger then drew her gun and fired two shots at Jean, piercing his heart and lungs. In the defense’s opening statement, Rogers argued that Guyger’s fatal mistake resulted from a culmination of exhaustion from working 40 hours in four days, knowledge of recent burglaries in the complex, and genuine confusion over whose apartment she was in.

Rogers claimed that Guyger attempted to de-escalate the situation by demanding that Jean show her his hands, and that this failed because Jean’s shouting drowned out her orders and made the officer “fear for her life.” Jean’s last words, according to a witness, were “Oh my God, why did you do that?”

Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus noted that Guyger failed to follow her police training for what to do if she suspected someone of being a burglar. The correct response was to retreat, take cover, and call for backup, not open fire.

On Thursday, State District Judge Tammy Kemp blocked a portion of lead investigator David Armstrong’s testimony. Armstrong claimed that Guyger had acted reasonably and had not committed a crime in shooting Jean. Kemp ruled that this information only represents Armstrong’s opinion and is not admissible in court.

Bodycam footage of Jean’s final moments depicts Guyger, still clad in her police uniform, frantically repeating “I thought it was my apartment” as officers begin CPR on Jean. Guyger also stated that she thought she was in her apartment approximately 20 times in her initial 911 call.

In the same call, she said “I’m gonna lose my job,” prompting District Attorney Hermus to declare that Guyger appeared “as concerned or more concerned about how [the shooting was] going to concern her than this poor guy on the floor next to her.”

The defense’s motion for a directed verdict of not guilty for the murder charge has been denied. Jean’s family has also filed a civil suit against the City of Dallas.

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On the impeachment front… The anonymous whistleblower complaint about Donald Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president (and subsequent alleged attempts to cover it up) was apparently lodged not long after a CIA officer raised the issue around the office.

“The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process,” The New York Times reported on Thursday night. “The lawyer shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy.”

Then, about two weeks later, the officer “decided to file a whistle-blower complaint to [inspector general for intelligence agencies Michael] Atkinson, a step that offers special legal protections, unlike going to a general counsel,” according to the Times.

Lawyers representing the person who filed the whistleblower complaint did not confirm that the CIA agent was their client, saying: “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.”

Executive Editor Dean Banquet defended the paper’s decision:

We decided to publish limited information about the whistle-blower—including the fact that he works for a nonpolitical agency and that his complaint is based on an intimate knowledge and understanding of the White House—because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible. We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.

Meanwhile, Trump isn’t letting whistleblowers and the possibility of impeachment dim his capacity for cruel immigration policy. Yesterday the administration announced that it would lower the refugee cap from its current 30,000 down to 18,000.

“The coming year’s 18,000-person cap will be the lowest since the refugee resettlement program began in 1980, a major shift from the 110,000 refugee admissions former President Barack Obama proposed for fiscal year 2017,” Politico points out.

The announcement comes at the same time as new figures on dwindling immigration rates:

The net increase of immigrants in the American population dropped to about 200,000 people in 2018, a decline of more than 70 percent from the year before, according to William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution, who conducted the analysis.

“It’s remarkable,” said David Bier, an immigration expert at the Cato Institute, of the 2018 numbers. “This is something that really hasn’t happened since the Great Recession. This should be very concerning to the administration that its policies are scaring people away.”


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Young people are leaving big cities. “Large U.S. cities lost tens of thousands of millennial and younger Gen X residents last year, according to Census figures released Thursday that offer fresh signs of cooling urban growth,” The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the paper’s analysis of census figures:

Cities with more than a half million people collectively lost almost 27,000 residents age 25 to 39 in 2018….It was the fourth consecutive year that big cities saw this population of young adults shrink. New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington and Portland, Ore., were among those that lost large numbers of residents in this age group.

The drop in young urban residents last year was smaller than in 2017, when big cities lost nearly 54,000 residents in this age group. But the sustained declines signal a sharp reversal from the beginning of the decade, when young adults flooded into cities and helped lead an urban revival.

The 2018 drop was driven by a fall in the number of urban residents between 35 and 39 years old. While the number of adults younger than that rose in big cities, those gains have tapered off in recent years.


QUICK HITS

  • The next small but significant step in congressional criminal justice reform moves involves federal sentencing policy. The Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act would “end the unjust practice of judges increasing sentences based on conduct for which a defendant has been acquitted by a jury,” says a press release from sponsoring Senators Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa).
  • The president doesn’t understand the difference between an apostrophe and a hyphen, among other things:
  • The Senate voted to confirm Eugene Scalia as the new secretary of labor.
  • Government shutdown averted.
  • A Mississippi city is claiming undocumented immigrants don’t have a right not to be killed by police:
  • Bitcoin is back in a chaos spiral downward.
  • On the spectacular downfall of WeWork.
  • A new measure in the large Australian state of New South Wales “overturned a 119-year-old law that made it a criminal offense to procure or administer an abortion.”
  • Tech executives in a CNBC poll voted Facebook the technology giant “most likely to face punitive action as a result of the federal government’s antitrust review of Silicon Valley.”
  • Uber’s redesign will “combine Uber’s ride-hailing and food delivery apps, boost new modes of transportation like scooters and add safety features.”
  • Everybody’s canceled!

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