It’s not business as usual. As a nuclear-armed North Korea has put the world on alert with its weapons tests and ever-more-dire taunt-off with President Trump, its one major ally is turning the screws. Complying with sanctions unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council Sept. 11, Beijing is telling North Korean businesses, including those with Chinese partners, they’ll have to close up shop by early January. Meanwhile, Seoul announced that its U.S. ally will begin rotating more “strategic assets” — likely meaning bombers and submarines — to bolster South Korean defenses.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s talking returns, just not his own. Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced his plan to overhaul and dramatically lower federal income taxes. It would eliminate estate taxes, double the standard deduction and cut the corporate rate from 35 to 20 percent. Trump, who bucked presidential precedent by not releasing his tax returns, insisted he wouldn’t personally benefit from the changes. While he encouraged bipartisan work on the plan, which leaves many details up to Congress, Republicans are reportedly hoping to pass the bill this year via a simple majority, bypassing Democratic input.
Today, the red velvet robe flies at half-staff. The founder of Playboy, the revolutionary magazine launched in 1953 featuring naked women and occasionally great journalism, died of natural causes yesterday in Los Angeles. Hefner, a symbol of the sexual revolution, was criticized for objectifying women, even as he outspokenly supported feminist causes, as well as civil rights and gay rights. His Playboy mansion, the scene of countless licentious parties, sold for $100 million in August with the caveat that he could continue living there — which he did until his death.
There’s no time to waste. As 3.4 million residents languish in post-hurricane devastation, the Trump administration has accepted Puerto Rico’s request to waive rules — as it did for Texas after Hurricane Harvey — that keep foreign ships from delivering supplies. The change will go into effect immediately. Doctors warn supplies are needed to stave off a public health crisis, and the island is still largely without electricity. Analysts predict a million people could leave Puerto Rico for good — which might inundate swing-state Florida with likely Democratic voters.
Can you sway the electorate in 140 characters? President Trump’s favored social media platform will brief congressional committees today on the role Russian Twitter accounts and bots played in sowing division among voters during the 2016 election. Often posing as Americans, the Russia-linked accounts pushed false stories during the campaign — and researchers say that not only are they still active, but they’re now promoting content related to Trump’s battle with the NFL. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg admitted remorse for calling Facebook’s ability to influence the election a “crazy idea.”
Know This: The refugee admissions quota to the U.S. has been cut to 45,000, an all-time low. California has moved its presidential primary to March, which state officials say will give its voters more influence over candidate choice in the 2020 election. And about 30,000 people in Ukraine had to evacuate as a massive ammunition depot caught fire and set off explosions.
Remember This Number: $320,000. That’s the sum Australian wellness blogger Belle Gibson has been ordered to pay for pretending to have cancer and pushing non-medical cures.
Tune In: OZY and WGBH have teamed up to create a fabulous new show for PBS, Third Rail With OZY. The show tapes every Friday in NYC in front of a live studio audience. Want to get in on the action? Sign up here.
One person’s gospel is another’s duplicity. That’s especially true nowadays, while the specter of “fake news” haunts the legacy of 2016’s election and social media struggles to separate journalism from propaganda. But it’s simpler in nations without a tradition of free expression: Inspired by President Trump, countries like Turkey and Indonesia have declared war on fake news — but watchdogs warn such efforts can also be a censorship tool to clamp down on legitimate media. Even Germany, with new fines for hate speech on social media, is sparking debate over free expression.
They’ve broken all the (fossil) records. University of Tokyo researchers say carbon fragments found in rocks from northeastern Canada are remnants of ancient life — and are 3.95 billion years old, surpassing the oldest known fossils by 250 million years. That suggests life arose during the Late Heavy Bombardment, a period during which Earth was constantly pelted with asteroids and thought to be inhospitable even to nascent bacteria. If the researchers’ methods prove accurate they could also be used to find historical evidence of life on other planets.
Nothing to see here, folks. Satellite images revealed that this weekend Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier calved a 103-square-mile iceberg — more than four times the size of Manhattan. The glacier, which loses 45 billion tons of ice each year, is the continent’s fastest-melting. Though a 2,240-square-mile chunk of the Larsen C shelf that split in July was Antarctica’s biggest recent loss, each new calving event weakens the barrier that keeps the continent’s massive amounts of non-floating ice from sliding into the water and raising sea levels.
Strike a pose. Uighurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority from Eastern China, have long been persecuted by the country’s government. But talent agencies say demand for Uighur models — whose facial features are considered more “European” than those of the Han Chinese — has risen sharply. While international brands have long used Caucasian models to advertise to Chinese markets, the rise of local companies has led to demand for a middle ground, a “half-Asian, half-European” look which offers an opening for the Mandarin-speaking Uighurs to shine.
They’re benched. After the FBI announced its investigation into an NCAA fraud and corruption case — which included funneling money to young players’ families to influence school choice — more prominent officials are being pushed out of universities already named as offenders. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who’s courted scandal throughout his career but never been forced out of a gig, has been put on leave, while Alabama administrator Kobie Baker has resigned. The FBI’s inquest is likely to expand to more schools — and topple more basketball careers.