Iran, Immigration, Jeff Koons: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning,

We’re covering a disagreement on Iran intelligence, President Trump’s immigration plan, and the cause of a deadly California wildfire.

The White House escalated its warnings about Iran based on photographs of fully assembled missiles in the Persian Gulf, American officials said. The images of the missiles, which had been placed on small boats by Iranian paramilitary forces, were said to have prompted fears of potential attacks on U.S. naval vessels, commercial ships and American troops in Iraq.

But others — including Europeans, Iraqis and members of both parties in Congress — said the moves could be defensive acts against what Tehran sees as provocations by Washington.

The reliability of the underlying intelligence has provoked fierce debate among factions in the White House, the Pentagon and the C.I.A., and from U.S. allies, reflecting a deep mistrust of President Trump’s national security team.

Reaction: To Iraqis, the warnings and threats about Iran echo the months before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Iraqi officials say they have warned militias tied to Iran against provoking U.S. forces.

Alabama’s governor signed into law on Wednesday a measure to ban most abortions in the state. Architects of the legislation have said that its purpose is to persuade the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy.

But the short-term challenge to abortion rights is likely to come from less extreme measures, our Supreme Court correspondent writes. The court led by Chief Justice John Roberts may prefer to chip away at rights rather than to overturn Roe outright. As soon as Monday, the court could announce whether it will hear challenges to abortion restrictions in Indiana and Louisiana.

See for yourself: Alabama is the seventh state this year to narrow the window for abortion. Here’s how limits have changed across the country.

Go deeper: The spate of new abortion rules began last fall, after Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court.

President Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday to stop American telecommunications companies from installing foreign-made equipment that poses a national security risk.

The order effectively banned sales by Huawei, China’s leading networking company. White House officials called the order “agnostic,” declining to single out China. But it is the most extreme move in the Trump administration’s fight against China’s tech sector, and it comes amid an escalating trade war, with tariffs imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars in goods in the past week.

Another angle: Few issues have defined Mr. Trump’s presidency more than his love for tariffs, which historians say is rooted in his experiences as a businessman in the 1980s, when Japan was rising as an economic power.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode looks at the effects of the trade war in the Midwest.

President Trump is set to unveil today an overhauled immigration plan that would significantly increase education and skill requirements for those allowed to move to the U.S. The proposal would also vastly scale back the system of family-based immigration, though it would not reduce the overall level of migration to the country.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, spent months working on the plan, which officials conceded was a long way from becoming a legislative reality. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to achieve a consensus on immigration policy, and Mr. Trump’s proposal has little chance of passing muster with increasingly divided lawmakers.

The details: The new plan would provide opportunities for immigrants with no job offers or specific skills to work in the U.S. if they can demonstrate English proficiency and educational attainment, and pass a civics exam.

Cannabidiol is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant, and CBD-infused products that promise vague but powerful benefits seem to be everywhere.

Plenty of legitimate research is being done on CBD, and many scientists are excited about its possibilities. The Times Magazine looks at how it has come to be seen as a cure-all.

Air transport ban: The U.S. suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Venezuela because of security concerns over the country’s political crisis.

California wildfires: Power lines belonging to Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest electrical utility, caused the Camp Fire in 2018, state officials concluded on Wednesday.

Proposed fur ban: A bill to ban fur sales has polarized New Yorkers, pitting animal rights activists against black pastors and Hasidic leaders.

Opioid crisis: The Metropolitan Museum of Art said it would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the makers of OxyContin.

Snapshot: Above, the Mississippi River, which gushed into Davenport, Iowa, at record levels two weeks ago, had retreated toward its banks by Monday. Spring flooding across the Midwest drew national attention to climate change, but politicians there have been wary of discussing the subject.

From Opinion: “I am determined to end voter suppression and empower all people to participate in our democracy,” Stacey Abrams, the founder of the nonprofit Fair Fight Action and the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia in 2018, writes in an Op-Ed.

Art record: A rabbit sculpture by Jeff Koons sold at Christie’s on Wednesday for $91.1 million, setting a record for a work by a living artist.

Late-night comedy: Stephen Colbert criticized Alabama’s new abortion law. “They’re going to throw them right in the Alabama slammer for 99 years,” he said. “Let’s see, it’s 2019, so by the time those doctors get out of jail in Alabama, it will be 1895.”

What we’re reading: This two-part series by Erik Wemple in The Washington Post, which scours the Mueller report for mentions of the news media and tells us that the reporting was validated.

Go: Merciless comedy shades to delicate tragedy in “BLKS,” by the poet and performer Aziza Barnes.

Read: Danielle Steel returns to our hardcover fiction and combined print and e-book fiction best-seller lists with “Blessing in Disguise.”

Smarter Living: The term “emotional labor” refers to the invisible work involved in keeping other people comfortable. It’s most often used to describe the labor that keeps a household running smoothly, and the division of that labor often corresponds to traditional gender roles. Talking about that imbalance is the first step to overcoming it.

And we have guidance to help you make your home an oasis.

This Sunday, HBO will show the final episode of “Game of Thrones” to audiences in more than 170 countries.

While some viewers live in fear of running across a spoiler, others embrace the idea of getting a jump on plot twists. They may be on to something.

In a 2011 study, psychologists at the University of California, San Diego, found that spoilers could enhance enjoyment. They gave people various short stories with one of three presentations: a spoiler paragraph before the story, a spoiler edited into the beginning of the story, or unspoiled.

Subjects preferred the advance spoilers. A later study found that they help people better understand the plot.

However, another study found that the medium mattered: People enjoyed spoiled episodes of “The Twilight Zone” less.

Then there’s anecdotal evidence. The Times’s Jenna Wortham got over having the “Game of Thrones” episode known as “The Red Wedding” ruined, and now relies on spoilers as “virtual Xanax.” She doesn’t, however, dish them out.

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

— Inyoung

Thank you
To Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Kenneth R. Rosen for the break from the news. Jake Lucas wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the U.S.-China trade war.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Color of honey (5 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• “The Weekly,” The New York Times’s first major foray into TV news, will premiere on June 2 on FX, and will be streamable on Hulu starting June 3.

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