It’s not just threats. North Korea reportedly tested another missile this morning, just as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the U.N. Security Council that failing to curb the rogue nation’s nuclear program “may bring catastrophic consequences.” President Donald Trump said the Hermit Kingdom had “disrespected” Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whom Tillerson said vowed new sanctions in the event of further nuclear tests. The missile failed soon after launch, but it prompted Tokyo to briefly halt subway trains and put South Korea — and the rest of the world — on edge.
The Presidential Daily Brief
“I thought it would be easier.” So said President Trump as he anticipated today’s 100th day in office while riding a self-propelled whirlwind. He convinced Congress to pass a stopgap spending bill so it can argue for another week about budget priorities and ratcheted up pressure on North Korea enough to convince the world it’s on the brink of war. What he hasn’t done: fulfill a pledge to replace Obamacare, fund his wall or escape from the Russian election meddling cloud — promising more difficult days to come.
No czars in this White House. At least that’s the position of the Trump administration as the House Intelligence Committee — having worked through a leadership crisis — prepares to question current and former officials about their links to a Kremlin implicated in U.S. election meddling. The panel’s asked FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers to testify Tuesday, and it reportedly wants to question presidential son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner, as well as ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after he misled the vice president about his Russian contacts.
C’est vrai. After shockingly wrong calls on the Brexit vote and U.S. presidential election, some wondered if the science of gauging voter sympathies had become obsolete. But pollsters popped champagne following Sunday’s first round of French presidential elections, accurately estimating voting results and turnout. They say they beat the odds by carefully controlling for reticent and thus underrepresented young and elderly respondents — and by closely tracking shifts in loyalties. Or were they just lucky? Find out May 7, when surveys indicate Emmanuel Macron will crush far-right Marine Le Pen by 22 points.
Know This: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose militants fought for many years alongside the Taliban, has urged the group to reconcile with the Afghan government. EU members voted today to set guidelines for negotiating terms for Britain’s departure from the bloc. Donald Trump became the first sitting president since Ronald Reagan to speak to the National Rifle Association, vowing to champion gun rights. And Pope Francis entered Cairo in an unarmored car — windows rolled down — to urge Muslim clerics to preach against sectarian violence.
Go Figure: “The reason I am going to pay more is because I lose all the deductions. They have deductions on top of deductions … things you have never heard of before.” — Donald Trump, explaining how his tax bill could increase under his tax reform plan, which others have concluded would be a windfall for wealthy Americans.
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Fair trade it’s not. Brazil has been a leader in eliminating modern slavery since 1995. However, President Michel Temer and many lawmakers are said to be undermining efforts to emancipate some 161,000 forced laborers. Cutting federal inspections, which have freed almost 50,000 people, soft-pedaling a public list of transgressive businesses, loosening outsourcing provisions and even lightening the very definition of slavery are, labor advocates say, putting workers at risk. Backers of the changes insist they’ll aid competitiveness, but others call them a “huge social regression” that will set human rights back 130 years.
Not all truths are noble. For one, Buddhists aren’t as inherently nonviolent as pop culture tells us. A romanticized, Western perception of this belief system has blinded many to belligerence in the name of the faith. Whether realized in the bloody, monk-led revolt of sixth-century China or the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in modern-day Myanmar, history is littered with Buddhists’ violent reactions to perceived threats. As fear of Islamization spreads across Asia, those who equate Buddhism with peace are likely to hear more news that could shatter their preconceptions.
Can you objectify an object? For 20 years, the pioneering brains behind Abyss Creations in Southern California have tried to make sex dolls as “real” as possible. The RealDoll combines silicone body parts and AI-enhanced conversation to occupy the cutting edge of a $30 billion sex tech industry. Costing as much as $50,000, it’s stimulating more than just unfulfilled libidos. Artificial lovers also engender debates about pliant manufactured partners making it easier to ignore humanity — and, worse, to think of women as property designed to cater to men’s desires, no matter how violent.
Where fashion and art collide, there’s Rei Kawakubo. The 74-year-old Japanese designer and founder of iconic fashion house Comme des Garçons has been challenging form and the paradigm of style by playing with proportion and turning heads since 1969. Sewing together ideas with an eye for the surreal, and incorporating what she calls “nonfabrics,” Kawakubo no longer makes runway looks fit for everyday wear, but rather for everyday dreaming. That may be why New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will showcase 40 years of the designer’s inimitable, rebellious work starting next month.
This is a kick in the head. Using one’s brain pan to move the ball seems as fundamental as kicking, yet a growing awareness of head injuries, especially among children, has fielded a growing anti-header movement. Alongside the kind of medical evidence that’s spotlighted NFL practices, soccer’s governing bodies are coming to terms with players risking permanent brain damage when they put their skulls in play. Despite warnings it would hamper national aspirations, U.S. kids’ leagues prohibited younger players from heading last year, and other countries might follow, putting their noggins to better use.