Aug 27, 2019

Why everyone is talking about bed bugs.

Why everyone is talking about bed bugs.

Plus, all the happenings from the G7 summit in France.

Tangle news.

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Today’s read: 9 minutes.

The G7 summit, why conservatives don’t trust universities, and the case for buying Greenland. Also, bed bugs.

A chart worth looking at.

Trump’s net approval rating has plummeted since election day in every battleground state, according Axios’s reporting on a Morning Consult poll.

But… it’s not unusual for a president’s approval rating to peak on inauguration day.

What D.C. is talking about.

The G7 summit in France. This is the meeting between world leaders that happens every year. G7 stands for “Group of Seven” and it’s made up of the world’s largest, most “advanced” economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. If you’re thinking “this sounds familiar,” that might be because it was called the G8 — before Russia was expelled from the meeting in 2014 (that came after Putin tried to take over Crimea, which had belonged to Ukraine since the Soviet Union dissolved). Usually, there’s a lot of talk about human rights, global economies and Democracy. This year, there’s a lot of nuttiness going around. Trump is pitching his own properties for the next G7 summit, has floated bringing Russia back into the group and is touting yet-to-be-seen trade deals with China and Japan that are, for now,  soothing the markets. There’s also talk about Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Other world leaders are spending their time on climate change and trying to figure out a way to stop the fires in the Amazon. There are a lot of stories here.

What Democrats are saying.

The usual: Trump is an embarrassment, our strength on the world stage continues to recede, and there’s still no coherent plan from this administration on global issues. Democrats blasted Trump for skipping a meeting on climate change, which was particularly obscene as it came while the Amazon rain forest is literally burning. Some gleefully claimed POTUS got “railroaded” by French President Emmanuel Macron, who managed to broker a meeting between Trump and Rouhani. Reminder: Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by the Obama administration. The deal sought to limit Iran’s nuclear program while relieving economic sanctions that sent money pouring into Iran. Democrats say the deal was working well and Trump pulled out of it just because it was something Obama did. Also,  after Trump pitched one of his hotels for a future G7 summit, a lot of Democrats said it was illegal for him to promote his companies. Others pointed out that those hotels have a history of bed bugs and cockroaches (POTUS was not happy).

What Republicans are saying.

The G7 is a mixed bag for Republicans these days. On one hand, it represents the kind of globalism that Trump railed against during his ascendence atop the party. On the other hand, it’s a place where American ideals like Democracy are celebrated and on full display. A lot of the commentary from Republicans on the G7 this year is about the potential for Trump and Rouhani’s meeting. Eli Lake wrote an op-ed urging Trump not to simply rewrite the same deal Obama made with Iran. Some saw Macron’s move to set up the talks, in which he unexpectedly invited an Iranian official to a meeting, as very disrespectful.

Otherwise, most of the focus from the right is on Trump’s talks with Japan and whatever he is saying about China. Trump called China President Xi Jinping an “enemy” on Friday. Monday, he was referring to him as a “great leader” and “brilliant man.” That has Republicans crossing their fingers that a deal is on its way, which would be a major turnaround from last week when Trump was “hereby ordering” American companies to pull their manufacturing from China.

My take.

It’s quite the mess. The only great news to come out of the G7 meeting was that world leaders had agreed to send a paltry $22 million to Brazil to help fight the fires in the Amazon. Now Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, said he’d only accept that money if Macron apologizes (Macron threatened to back out of a trade deal with Brazil, saying Bolsonaro wasn’t living up to his commitment to the environment). Trump promoting his own properties for the next G7 summit is totally absurd, but the goalposts have been moved so far during his presidency it’s tough to conjure up a reaction. And, by the way, Doral definitely had bed bugs. Unless you don’t believe photographic evidence and court records (The New York Times, apparently, has bed bugs too). The trade deal talks with China are all smoke and mirrors and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump is back to issuing tariffs via Twitter on Friday. I’ll believe something when I see it in writing (with signatures). Perhaps the most interesting story is the way Macron may have cornered Trump into renegotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Obama’s nuclear deal had lots of flaws — namely how easily Iran was able to funnel the newfound cash to terrorist organizations — but most experts agreed it accomplished its primary goal of slowing their nuclear ambitions. It’d probably be good to enter a new deal that kept Iran’s volatile leadership from having a nuclear bomb.

Another bed bug thing.

Tangle tips de Blasio.

A tip came in last night about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s run for president. I get tips for stories all the time, but this was the first one to come in specifically for Tangle. I’ve highlighted the bullet points below and reached out to his team for comment, but they haven’t responded yet.

  • A source close to the campaign says Mayor de Blasio’s team was trying to convince him to drop out of the race as it became clear he wasn't going to qualify for the next debates. Then he got an invitation from CNN for a town hall that aired two days ago, which reignited his desire to stay in. The CNN town hall passed with very low ratings and did little to advance the campaign. Mayor de Blasio is now feeling discouraged about the run and mulling its conclusion.
  • De Blasio has a scheduled appearance on Pod Save America, a popular left-wing podcast run by one of Obama’s former speechwriters. He wants to record the episode before dropping out, as the Pod Save America team has no interest in hosting him if he’s going to end his presidential run. He thinks it could build momentum and give him a shot at the October debates.
  • The mayor is planning to attend a Red Sox game while he is in Los Angeles for his Pod Save America appearance, regardless of whether the podcast appearance happens or not. De Blasio’s Red Sox fandom is a major point of contention amongst New Yorkers who famously loathe their northern rivals.

An argument we didn’t expect.

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton wrote an op-ed in The New York Times making the case for America to buy Greenland. President Trump was widely mocked for floating the idea last week, but Sen. Cotton comes to his defense and makes a compelling argument for the purchase, even contextualizing the historical precedent of such moves. He says the president is “crazy like a fox” and the acquisition would “secure vital strategic interests for the United States, economically benefit both us and Greenlanders, and would be in keeping with American — and Danish — diplomatic traditions.” Critics are undeterred, noting the proposition is absurd on its face since Greenland simply isn’t for sale. Still, I thought it was a worthwhile read. You can check it out here.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is about answering reader questions and repairing the relationship between reporters and readers. You’re encouraged to ask questions and it’s really easy! Simply reply to this email and write in.

Q: I don't understand this: “59 percent of Republicans or leaning Republican Americans now say universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in America.” Does that mean they don't believe in college education? Or something else? I feel like this needs some context....

- Rebecca, New York, NY

Tangle: The deteriorating trust that conservatives have in American colleges is mostly due to two things: One, universities are seen as a hotbed for liberal ideals. Two, universities are seen as a place where free speech is now stifled.

Lots of things have happened in the last few years to contribute to this perception. Conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro have had to travel to campuses with body guards because of death threats. Other right-wing provocateurs have faced boycotts, mass protests or even had their talks interrupted by such loud noisemaking they couldn’t continue. Trump supporters have been punched in the face for trying to recruit students on campus. Some conservatives with medical science pedigree have tried giving speeches on college campuses about transgender issues, often making the case it’s a mental disorder, which has caused a particularly fraught relationship between student bodies and speakers.

There is some merit to these concerns. I believe college campuses should be a place where students are made uncomfortable and forced to reckon with different world views. That’s what education is all about, and the “safe space” movement has some obvious drawbacks. Even President Obama warned about college liberals being coddled and avoiding arguments they didn’t like.

Yet, I’m also aware that I’m a white guy who has, by most contextual standards, lived a pretty nice life. So it’s tough for me to judge women who have survived sexual assault protesting someone who has written blithely about how drunk sex goes down on college campuses. And, of course, it’s worth noting that — just like campus conservative groups are well within their rights to invite controversial speakers — liberal students are well within their rights to organize protests against those speakers. There’s also the simple fact that some campus conservative free-speech activists are incredibly, unthinkably hypocritical.

The other thing at play here is the simple fact college professors are overwhelmingly liberal. For all the faux victimhood in the conservative free speech conversation, conservatives have a good point about the overwhelming liberalism of colleges. 40 percent of the top ranked liberal arts schools have zero registered Republican professors. One study found that just one in 50 sociology professors identified as conservative. This impacts how universities teach about religion, politics, history and science. And every time a liberal college professor is caught making a disparaging comment about Trump, religion or Republicans, the right-wing media machine runs with it for days and makes sure their audiences know liberal colleges hate conservatives.

Finally, and this is less of a “conservative” issue, a lot of Republicans or right-leaning Americans are simply fed up with the cost of school like the rest of us. Now, some studies find conservative parents are encouraging their kids to go to trade school instead of traditional universities. All of this — free speech issues, liberal professors, right-wing media and rising costs of colleges — are making conservatives squeamish about college.

A story that matters.

Yesterday, a judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay out $572 million to Oklahoma for the role it played in the opioid epidemic that killed thousands of Oklahomans and Americans. The case rested on the “pseudoscience” and “false, misleading and dangerous” marketing Johnson & Johnson used to sell opioids as safe to Oklahoma’s doctors. The settlement is far less than the $17 billion Oklahoma wanted, but is an encouraging sign for lawyers in the 2,000 other lawsuits being filed against opioid manufacturers. Of note: the stock prices for opioid manufacturers skyrocketed on the news despite the judgment, as many expected a bigger payout. It’s not yet clear where the money will go, but the judge in the case hopes it’ll be used to fund addiction services in the state. Read more here.

Have a nice day.

Scientists in Utah say they successfully stopped pancreatic cancer in mice. The researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute stopped the spread of the disease by turning on a protein in mice in early stages of the cancer. The lead author on the study believes the treatment could be enough to prevent or reverse pancreatic cancer in its early stages, but they need to get to clinical trials first. That could take a few years. You can read more here.

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