Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times


President Trump and his advisers have publicly dismissed the prospect of a recession, but White House officials have contingency plans — including for a potential payroll tax cut and a possible reversal of tariffs — should the economy weaken further.

A senior official cautioned that a payroll tax cut was not under serious consideration, but the fact that the White House is discussing ways to stimulate an economy that Mr. Trump called “very strong” underscores concern about slowing growth.

Yesterday: Almost 200 executives, including the leaders of Apple, Pepsi and Walmart, argued that companies should no longer advance only shareholders’ interests, but also invest in employees, protect the environment and deliver value to customers.

Another angle: The Federal Reserve is dropping requirements put in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Mercedes-Benz and at least one other major automaker are preparing to join four others that struck a deal with California last month to reduce automobile emissions, according to officials and executives.

The Trump administration wants to all but eliminate Obama-era regulations designed to reduce vehicle emissions that cause global warming. That proposal could be rendered irrelevant if enough automakers agree to stick with the current, stricter standards before the rollback can be put into effect.

Background: The Obama-era rules, which require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new vehicles by 2025, remain the single largest U.S. policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Car companies fear that the proposed changes could mean building two separate vehicle lineups.

Facebook and Twitter said on Monday that they had removed accounts originating in China that had worked in a coordinated way to portray protesters in Hong Kong as violent and extreme.

It was the first time that the social media companies have taken down Chinese accounts linked to disinformation, a tactic used by Russia during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Background: Both Facebook and Twitter are blocked in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong. The Communist Party has largely not needed Western social media because it maintains tight control over domestic media and content.

Watch: Our video shows how China has portrayed the protests in Hong Kong as the work of outside influences, including the U.S.

Another angle: A trade officer at the British Consulate in Hong Kong went missing after crossing into mainland China this month, raising fears that the authorities might be targeting travelers they suspect of supporting the protesters.

Five months after U.S.-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its territory in Syria, the terrorist group is gathering strength, retooling financial networks and seeking recruits, American and Iraqi military and intelligence officers said.

Although ISIS seems unlikely to reclaim its former territory, which was once the size of Britain, the group has mobilized as many as 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria and can tap a war chest of as much as $400 million.

What’s next: The resurgence comes as the U.S. withdraws troops from Syria and shifts its focus in the Middle East to Iran.

About 8,000 years ago, artists who lived near the Danube River in modern Serbia carved stone heads that seem to mix human and fish features.

Researchers have placed the settlement, Lepenski Vir, at the moment when farmers from the Near East began to migrate into Southeastern Europe and met the hunters and gatherers who lived there, offering hints about a merger of two cultures.

New York police firing: Daniel Pantaleo, the officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014, was fired and stripped of his pension benefits. Mr. Garner’s death helped to galvanize the Black Lives Matter protests that led to changes in policing practices.

Retreat on gun control: President Trump’s resolve to push background checks after mass shootings in Ohio and Texas appears to have softened after talks with gun rights advocates.

Planned Parenthood funding: The organization said it would withdraw from the federal program that provides birth control and other health services to poor women rather than comply with a Trump administration rule that forbids referrals to doctors who can perform abortions. Planned Parenthood received about $60 million a year through the program, known as Title X.

Jeffrey Epstein case: Two days before he killed himself, the financier bequeathed his $500 million fortune to a hastily arranged trust. In the latest fallout over Mr. Epstein’s death in a federal jail, the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons was reassigned.

Coal miners’ protest: Workers in Kentucky were left unpaid after their employer abruptly declared bankruptcy. Their subsequent protest, which has continued for three weeks, has blocked a train carrying over a million dollars’ worth of coal from leaving a mine.

2020 playlists: The Times analyzed the songs used by President Trump and nine Democratic candidates to see how they help set campaigns’ tone.

Snapshot: Above, near the top of what was once Iceland’s Okjokull glacier, which scientists say is the country’s first glacier lost to climate change. Glaciers cover 11 percent of Iceland.

Late-night comedy: Most of the shows are in reruns, so our column is on hiatus.

What we’re reading: This column by the restaurant critic of The Observer of London, about a seriously ill reader who asked for recommendations. Peter Robins, an editor in our London newsroom, writes: “It’s heartwarming, sad and excellent on the emotional power of a good meal. I held it together through the text, but I cried a little over the reader comments.”

Cook: Steamed clams in a slightly spicy broth. (Our Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter has more ideas.)

(Re)watch: As a child, our writer didn’t understand the appeal of “Murder, She Wrote,” the TV series starring Angela Lansbury. As an adult, she’s a die-hard fan.

Read: Four debut novels reveal the range and the universality of loss.

Listen: Almost no young musician in pop music has more promise than Rosalía, the Spanish flamenco-trained singer, our critic writes.

Smarter Living: Expressing regret for saying the wrong thing requires a special kind of apology. Avoid “I’m sorry if you were hurt” — it sounds hollow. The point is to acknowledge that what you said was inappropriate and that it caused pain. And while you can admit to feeling abashed, don’t lay it on too thick.

And we look at why warning pregnant women not to drink can backfire.

Tossing messages in bottles into the ocean is discouraged these days, given concerns about marine trash. But aficionados love the random connections they can create.

Some make headlines: This week, a man in Alaska discovered a bottle holding a 50-year-old note from a Russian sailor, wishing the recipient “good health and long years of life and happy sailing.” The author, now 86, was overjoyed when a Russian TV channel tracked him down.

For centuries, scientists have used “drift bottles” to study ocean currents, and floating bottles have carried love notes, advertising, anti-Communist propaganda, and pleas for help from the shipwrecked — and served as an inspiration for Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Sting.

Historians say Christopher Columbus, fearing death during a violent storm, tossed out a cask encasing a parchment addressed to his royal patrons. He survived, and the cask is yet to be found.

If it somehow turns up, it would easily top the current record-holder, which floated at sea for 131 years.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Melina Delkic helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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