Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

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Alexander Acosta, the labor secretary, is facing growing calls to resign over a plea deal he cut as a U.S. attorney in Florida in 2008 that allowed the financier Jeffrey Epstein to bring an end to a sex crimes case and to serve only 13 months in jail. Mr. Epstein was newly indicted this week on charges of child sex trafficking.

The 2008 deal was seen by many as far too lenient, and, while Mr. Acosta cited new evidence and testimony in welcoming Mr. Epstein’s latest indictment, his critics are unlikely to be satisfied.

Voices: In a series of meticulously researched articles for The Miami Herald, Julie Brown, an investigative journalist, identified about 80 of Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims and revealed the secret negotiations behind the 2008 plea deal. She spoke to The Times on Tuesday about the latest developments in the case.

Go deeper: The Times has profiled Mr. Epstein, a money manager who once socialized with princes and celebrities while remaining an enigma.

Notable: Mr. Epstein’s influential friends included former President Bill Clinton. President Trump once called the financier a “terrific guy” but now says he is “not a fan.”

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that President Trump had violated the Constitution by blocking Twitter users who criticized or mocked him. Because he uses Twitter to conduct government business, the court said, he could not exclude Americans from reading or engaging with his posts because he did not like their opinions.

The ruling was one of the highest-profile decisions yet in a growing constellation of cases addressing what the First Amendment means in a time when political expression increasingly takes place online.

Related: Twitter unveiled its first official guidelines on Tuesday on what constitutes “dehumanizing” speech, starting with language it considers unacceptable when directed toward religious groups.

Mr. Perot was a Texas businessman who ran for president twice in the 1990s on a third-party platform that idealized small-town life and tarred Washington as a hotbed of corruption. He died on Tuesday.

His eccentric background included stints as a Navy officer, I.B.M. salesman, entrepreneur and billionaire philanthropist. In the 1992 presidential election, Mr. Perot finished with 19 percent of the popular vote — the strongest third-party showing since 1912.

Closer look: Many of Mr. Perot’s dire predictions about the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement proved wrong or overstated. But his skepticism about lowering trade barriers proved prescient, and his unlikely candidacy presaged Donald J. Trump’s outsider run in 2016.

A decade ago, top executives at France Télécom wanted to shrink the company by thousands of workers. But most of those workers were state employees with jobs guaranteed for life.

The executives, prosecutors say, resolved to make life so unbearable that workers would leave. Instead, at least 35 — feeling trapped and betrayed — took their own lives. The former executives now face charges of “moral harassment.”

Big picture: The trial has riveted a country that is deeply conflicted about capitalism and corporate culture, and raises questions about how far companies should go in search of profit and efficiency.

CreditJack Delano/Farm Security Administration, via Library of Congress

For generations, The Chicago Defender was a voice for African-American communities and an essential outlet for any politician who hoped to win black voters.

The Defender — which first went to press in 1905 — will cease printing after today, though its digital operation will continue.

Court blocks census moves: A federal judge in New York rejected the Justice Department’s request to switch its legal team midway through a case that challenges the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to next year’s count.

Snapshot: Above, floods inundated Washington on Monday, demonstrating the vulnerability of an aging storm-water system in the era of climate change.

Late-night comedy: Most shows are in reruns, so our column is taking the week off.

In memoriam: Rip Torn, who starred on “The Larry Sanders Show” in the 1990s, died on Tuesday in Connecticut. He was 88.

Ex-champion advances at Wimbledon: Serena Williams beat Barbora Strycova to reach the semifinals. If Ms. Williams wins the tournament, she would match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

A new “fish” for sale: Impossible Foods, creator of a meatless burger, is introducing a (fish-less) fish product. The company has promised to design replacements for every animal-based food on the market by 2035.

What we’re reading: This first-person essay in Harper’s Bazaar by Serena Williams about her heated U.S. Open match last year, accompanied by unretouched photos. Alisha Haridasani Gupta, on the briefings team, says, “It’s the tennis star at her most raw, unfiltered self.”

Smarter Living: Don’t struggle for perfection. Two strategies can help you just get a job done. First, break the task into small, achievable steps. Second, focus on the process rather than the outcome so you can enjoy the progress you’re making.

And here’s how you can make small changes in your behavior, surroundings and relationships for a happier life.

For a psychoactive substance that’s still nominally illegal in most of the world, cannabis has never been more popular — and that means it’s time to mind our manners beyond “don’t bogart that joint.”

Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of the American etiquette doyenne Emily Post, delves into the finer points with a new book called “Higher Etiquette,” which Dwight Garner, a Times book critic, calls “helpful and inquisitive.”

Among her recommendations: Thoughtful hosts should provide finger bowls so a guest can dampen a joint that’s burning unevenly, and should place vape pens “to the right of the setting or across the top of the setting either between the place card and dessertware or behind the place card.”

As for bogarting — that’s wastefully hanging on to a joint without smoking it — Ms. Post notes that the term is “derived from the way Humphrey Bogart would just let a cigarette hang out of his mouth, not seeming to actually smoke it.”

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

— Mike

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Adam Pasick, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is on the plan to elect Republican women.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Site of a recent Trump/Kim meeting, for short (3 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The travel editor for The New York Times, Amy Virshup, announced that her desk would buy carbon offsets for airplane travel by staff members on assignment, including our 52 Places Traveler.

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