Jan 18, 2024

Your questions, answered.

Many readers have asked me to review Joe Biden's presidency.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 16 minutes.

Today, we're catching up on some reader questions! And a nice story about a produce stand in Tokyo.

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Quick hits.

  1. Amid an intensifying series of Israeli airstrikes in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said it was planning to wind down military operations in the south of Gaza and begin more targeted operations in the north. (The strategy
  2. Pakistan carried out airstrikes in Iranian territory on Thursday morning in response to an Iranian airstrike in Pakistan on Tuesday. Both countries said they were targeting their own nationals in the attacks. (The strikes) Separately, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the State department will be designating the Houthis as a foreign terrorist group starting next month. (The designation)
  3. A second trial between former president Donald Trump and writer E. Jean Carroll is underway in New York to decide how much money Trump must pay Carroll for comments he made in 2019 denying he sexually assaulted her. (The trial) On Wednesday, the judge presiding over the trial threatened to remove Trump from the courtroom for his disruptive remarks during the proceedings. (The threat)
  4. A new study found that the Greenland ice sheet has lost 20% more ice than was previously thought, heightening concerns about ocean circulation patterns and sea level rise. (The findings)
  5. China’s population declined for the second year in a row with low birth rates and a spike in Covid-19 deaths driving the trend. (The decline)

Today's topic.

A reader mailbag. As we mentioned in yesterday's newsletter, Tangle founder and Executive Editor Isaac Saul is currently on a trip through Bolivia. We decided to use that small disruption to our daily coverage to catch up on a bunch of reader questions we've been trying to respond to. Isaac and the team worked on these questions together over the last week or two. Let us know what you think, and remember, if you want to have a question answered in the newsletter, you can reply to this email (it goes straight to our inbox) or fill out this form.

Heads up: Tomorrow, we're publishing a members-only piece where Isaac makes the case that Republicans should take Hunter Biden's offer for public testimony.

Q: I read your article “What good did Trump do for America?” [Editor’s note: this was a response I wrote to a reader question.] My question is “What good did Biden do for America?”

— Julie from Austin, Texas

Q: A while ago you did a column on the good things Trump accomplished. Would you consider doing a column on the good things Biden accomplished? (It seems both sides tend to say everything the other side does is bad.)

— Karen from Denver, Colorado

Q: How can you say Joe is an "OK" president?  What has he done FOR Americans?  Everything, every last thing he has done has made our lives WORSE. Could not disagree more on this. He is absolutely the worst, and has made life disproportionately worse for the most downtrodden. I enjoy you, and the way you present the news. Please keep up the good work.

— Anonymous from Woodbury, Connecticut

Tangle: These are three versions of the same question, but there are a dozen others like them I get asked all the time. So I'm going to give my response to it some extra attention.

First, it's a lot easier to assess a president’s time in office once it’s over, and especially after some time has elapsed. Many policies presidents implement do not have an immediate impact, and it can take years (or even decades) to really say whether they were wise or not. I've made this same point in some of the reviews of Trump's presidency that we've done.

There's also the question of what makes a "good" presidency. To me, there are three elements:

1) Is the country doing well, based on traditional metrics and traditional framings?

2) Does a president do what they said they were going to do? Fundamentally, I think a “good” president follows through on the agenda they ran on, and a president should be graded highly for doing what they said, since they got elected by Americans to do those things.

3) Is there a strong argument that what they've done has been a net positive for American society?

So, in order to answer the question of what Biden has done well, I'm going to ignore the bad things and failed promises of the Biden administration, focusing exclusively on the good. What's the case for Biden?

Let's start with judging Biden through the traditional lens by which many presidents are graded.

The traditional metrics

First: The economy. I know, I know. That might sound like lunacy given such poor economic sentiment, but Biden can make a strong case. The United States has had the best inflation-adjusted recovery from the pandemic of any major economy — and we are the biggest global economy. Unemployment is still below 4%, and that’s not some labor participation trick: The share of working-age Americans with a job is higher right now than it was at any point during the Trump administration. Wages are now rising faster than prices. GDP growth remains strong. A record number of small businesses have started under Biden. The coveted "soft landing" looks like it's not only here, but might be even better than we could have hoped for.

Also, the stock market had a great year, which is good news for the roughly 61% of American adults who own stocks. A good stock market doesn't just mean growth for wealthy investors,  corporations and the 1%; it also means growth for middle-class investors, retirees, and those planning to retire.

There's also violent crime. The murder rate went up during the Trump administration, and last year it took one of the biggest drops in U.S. history — now on track to be 15% lower than it was in 2022, and far below Trump’s last year in office. Crediting a drop in violent crime to Biden is far from straightforward, but presidents who typically oversee skyrocketing violent crime get dinged — so we should acknowledge this as a plus in the spirit of fairness.

Energy production is something Biden does have more control over. Even while passing one of the biggest climate change bills in U.S. history (a promise kept to his supporters, which he deserves credit for), Biden is overseeing a boom of production in American natural gas and crude oil. Both are at all-time highs, and the U.S. is once again exporting a record amount of energy, something past presidents have all been praised for.

Finally, despite the ballooning debt, the budget deficit is actually down. In fact, it is $1.4 trillion lower in 2023 than it was in Trump’s last year in 2020. There is still a long way to go to reform federal spending, but Biden can genuinely say he has the country heading in the right direction to fix our debt problem.

Fulfilling campaign promises

One of Biden’s biggest legislative accomplishments as president so far is the $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Many Republicans who voted against the measure now boast about it in their districts because it provided funding for popular initiatives like repairing roads, bridges and railroads, and bringing high-speed internet to rural communities. It also funded low-emission public transportation projects and clean water initiatives all across the country. On top of being a pretty popular piece of legislation, the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal was a central promise kept to his supporters. And something his predecessor could not get done.

Medicare has started to negotiate drug prices for 10 major drugs, something Trump said he was going to get done but never actually did. Biden, Democrats, and some Republicans in Congress actually did get it done — and that policy change is something Biden told his supporters he’d do.

Here are some other things he said he'd do that Republicans might not like, but do represent a promise kept to his supporters: He created incentives for states to pass red flag laws and expanded laws that prevent people convicted of domestic abuse from gun ownership with the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. And while the number of mass shootings rose slightly in 2023, overall gun deaths were down 8-10%. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is more aptly a climate change bill, included $369 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in the next seven years, fulfilling his promise to supporters of making a massive investment to fight climate change. 

The Respect for Marriage Act officially guaranteed all states will recognize same-sex marriage. He pardoned thousands of people convicted of simple marijuana possession. He appointed federal judges at a record pace over his first two years in office and also appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman on the Supreme Court. He attempted to cancel student loans (a campaign promise), and despite failing to do so wholesale, he has succeeded in forgiving billions of dollars of loans for 3.6 million borrowers.

And while Americans are pretty split about unions, Biden has promised (and bragged) about being the most pro-union president in history. He largely walked the walk there, not just protesting with unions (which was unprecedented) but also overseeing both huge growth in union membership and big wage increases for members of unions (and for non-member workers, too).

Good for the country

These achievements are harder to identify, but I'm trying to focus on some policy wins for Biden that I think are very likely a net positive for the country and that have at least some bipartisan support.

Atop this list is the CHIPS and Science Act, which provided funding to produce semiconductor chips for a lot of popular consumer goods, such as automobiles and cellphones. The bill is both creating jobs and allowing the U.S. to manage its own supply chain for homegrown high tech products independent of China (and Taiwan). It is one of the things he's done that has received the most bipartisan support in Congress, and voters who know about the policy view it very positively.

He also signed the "burn pits bill" (or the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act) which helped veterans who have long been suffering from the effects of inhaling toxins caused by the burning of trash on military bases. Republicans initially blocked the bill but backed down after an intense public backlash.

Biden helped usher in the Electoral Count Reform Act on a bipartisan basis, a bill that clarifies the vice president's role in counting electoral votes and is designed to make it harder for federal lawmakers to challenge the outcome of presidential elections. When we covered the bill, passed with bipartisan support in response to January 6, I called it the kind of rational and incremental reform that stabilizes our election process.

There are also a lot of things Biden has gotten (or should get) praise for from the right. Consider this piece from conservative columnist Marc Thiessen, in which he highlights the following:

  • The killing of a top ISIS leader
  • Strengthening restrictions on China's access to advanced technology
  • Strengthening diplomatic ties with South Korea and Japan
  • Increasing military competition with China, and military aid to Taiwan
  • Signing a GOP-sponsored crime bill to oversee Washington, D.C.
  • The debt ceiling deal with Republicans
  • Continuing support of Ukraine and rallying allies to the cause
  • Clearly standing with Israel after the October 7 attacks

I'd add to that list of things Republicans might like that Biden has also invested heavily in local law enforcement, expanded the southern border wall, and is fighting off legal challenges from the left to better crack down on illegal immigration.

To me, all of the above taken together make the case for Biden's presidency, and many of these points are why — despite my many criticisms of his administration — I think it's very hard to argue he has been a "terrible" president or "the worst president in history," as some readers and pundits say.

Q: Noticed in a lot of the writing on the Israel/Hamas war, people on both sides tend to proclaim that the mainstream media is horribly biased against their side and not reporting this accurately. I mean, that's a running theme in a lot of political opinion pieces, but it seems particularly prevalent with this conflict. I know you did a whole thing on that specific story about the hospital bombing. But since the Israel/Palestine thing and media bias seem to be two things you think about a lot, I was wondering: Are you actually seeing a particular bias, overall, one way or the other?  Or is it just that everyone's mostly in their own little bubbles?  Or are there biases that are widespread but more complicated than pundits seem to think?

— Julian from New York City, New York

Tangle: I think it’s the last one. The distribution of bias is very complicated, and your view of it depends entirely on where you are getting your information. Interestingly, this conflict isn’t demonstrating the typical right-left media bias divide we tend to see, but actually the bias of Western media outlets. That usually looks like less focus on Palestinian deaths, devaluing of Palestinian lives via language choices, or an over-emphasis on Western intelligence sources and Western politicians for quotes. The Intercept published a great article exploring the language choices made by outlets like The New York Times, often criticized for having an anti-Israel bias, and I think they demonstrated pretty convincingly that the bias actually runs against Palestinians.

But, again, it really depends where you look and how you’re thinking about it. There are a lot of non-Western media outlets like Al-Jazeera that receive a great deal of attention and I think clearly publish content that does not tell the full story. Israelis are notoriously skeptical of outlets like BBC, which they think (despite it being a Western news source) has a strong anti-Israel bias. And there are entire organizations dedicated to calling out anti-Israel bias in newsrooms.

Q: You’ve written a lot about Hamas’s sexual violence on October 7. What about the sexual violence perpetrated by members of the IDF against Palestinians? 

— Khalil from St. Paul, Minnesota

Tangle: This is a fair callout. To defend myself for a moment, what made the October 7 attacks so unique — and what still does — is just how much carnage was carried out in a single day. So, to the degree that our coverage might have not fairly addressed crimes by IDF soldiers throughout this conflict, I do think it is fair to note that there were far more reports of sexual violence levied against Hamas from that one single day than have been levied against the IDF in the three and a half months since.

Still, it is certainly worth noting — and I don’t think it’s whataboutism to do so — that the Israeli military has been credibly accused for decades of sexual harassment and violence against Palestinians. This paper is one of the most in-depth reports I've seen recounting and collecting the various accusations against the IDF and other Israeli security forces (like jail guards) over the years. These allegations are not particularly new. Here is a similar paper from 2015 about the torture of Palestinian men in Israeli prisons, including sexual violence and harassment. Unfortunately, all throughout the West (including in the U.S., where some police are trained by Israeli forces), reports of sexual violence against prisoners abound. These reports are also common in times of war

And allegations have come out more recently, too. In December, +972 Magazine reported on prisoners released as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas and others who were released around the same time but unaffiliated with that deal. There were reports of torture and prisoners being beaten to death. One prisoner, a Palestinian journalist named Lama Khater, said Israeli soldiers threatened to rape her and her children, then strip-searched and taunted her.

To put it simply, the only way to dismiss these allegations is to devalue the voices of Palestinians and ignore hundreds of people telling fairly consistent stories over the last decade — something I am not going to do. 

There are other troubling reports, too — such as the former State Department official who said Israel shut down a Palestinian NGO after it reported the rape of a child. Or the Israeli military official who is in prison after being convicted of raping a Palestinian woman and assaulting others. In 2020 alone, the IDF received 1,542 complaints of sexual assault — according to the IDF — including 26 allegations of rape. 

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend every action is the same — there are varying degrees to what these soldiers have done, which differ from what Hamas fighters have done. In many cases, Israel itself is identifying and prosecuting people over these allegations (and in other cases, they are covering it up). But it is absolutely true that members of the IDF have for years been accused and convicted of heinous sexual violence against Palestinians.

Q: I think it highly significant that Premier Xi told President Biden directly that he intends to "reincorporate" Taiwan, and soon. Also, the delay in disclosing that detail of their conversation troubles me. You've mentioned it twice, but other than that, no one seems to think this is a big deal. Am I overreacting?

— Keith from Barnwell, South Carolina

Tangle: Unfortunately, I don't think it is an overreaction. In fact, I think this has the potential to be the story of 2024. I have no doubt Xi is going to attempt to follow through on his language. And given that Taiwan just elected a leader who is ardently opposed to reunification, the stage is set for a serious showdown. If Xi were to attempt to act on this, it would be far more disruptive and dangerous on the world stage than Russia's invasion of Ukraine or the latest fighting in Gaza.

Q: Regarding voter psychology, do the chances a candidate has of winning an election influence voters more so than issue alignment? I wonder if voters care more about whether they “pick a winner” than supporting who best represents their beliefs. It’s not a wager, you know? There’s no reward for picking the winning candidate (or even the underdog). 

— Elizabeth from Fort Worth, Texas

Tangle: As far as I know, there is very little evidence voters are trying to pick the person who’s going to win. Based on what voters tell us, most do genuinely pick their candidates based on policy preferences. Other things that tend to matter are sharing personal backgrounds (like being from the same place) or religious views. 

That being said, there is a closely related dynamic here. I think it is true that a lot of people don’t want to vote for a candidate that has no chance, and the media often determines favorites preemptively. That media hype, attention, and free press for the favored choices ultimately helps cull the herd of presidential candidates, leaving voters with a small handful of people who might actually have a chance to win. For instance, you can probably name five, 10, maybe even 20 (if you’re really paying attention) people who are or were running for president in 2024. But hundreds of candidates have filed for the 2024 election, as is common for every presidential election. 

Q: Have you watched the Fall of Minneapolis documentary? Does it make you question the veracity of the George Floyd narrative?

— Pat from St. Paul, Minnesota

Tangle: I have not. However, I think you are the 10th or 11th reader to ask me about this documentary, which makes me want to cover it. So I’ll put it on my to-do list.

Q: Are there immigrants seeking asylum who, after being denied, are then released into the country? If so, how and why?

— Marcy from Texas

Tangle: Immigrants who seek asylum and are denied do not get released into the country. Most often, they get deported back to the country they came from, or somewhere else. In fact, under President Biden, many asylum seekers are being deported before their claims are even heard

An asylum seeker isn’t automatically deported after having their claim denied, but it is the most common outcome. Some asylum seekers who are denied can appeal to an immigration judge, or to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is basically the immigration high court. But if an asylum seeker is processed, appears before an immigration court and is denied asylum, they are not going to be let go into the U.S.

When you read about migrants seeking asylum who get released into the country, you’re reading about migrants who have not yet had their claims processed. This is why I’m always talking about the need to ramp up the number of immigration judges and courts in the U.S. The biggest issue with our current system is the massive backlog of cases, and the fact that people waiting to get their asylum cases heard will often get released into the U.S. with an immigration date months or years away. Even though many of those migrants actually do show up for court, plenty don’t.

Q: I’m struggling to understand why the alleged affair between Fanni Willis and Nathan Wade is a charge being filed in court. They are colleagues and consenting adults. While sleeping with a coworker is messy and harmful to any partner or spouse, is it really a chargeable offense? And the fact that Wade may have spent the money he made through his position as special prosecutor on vacations for the two of them does not seem scandalous to me at all. Isn’t spending money earned from work what people do? Is Trump’s defense team grasping at straws and stalling or am I missing something?

— Rachel from Denver, Colorado

Tangle: I think you’re glossing over the most significant details. Is it scandalous for colleagues to be in a relationship? No, not necessarily. What if those colleagues are government employees? It’s a little more delicate, but it’s not a scandal by itself and there are no federal rules against it. A high-profile government employee, in an undisclosed relationship with a subordinate, who received a high-profile appointment over other more experienced colleagues during that relationship? Yeah, that’s a problem. 

In the private sector, we would call giving an employee preferential treatment because of an undisclosed relationship an HR violation, and maybe even grounds for termination. In the public sector, it’s a scandal — and potentially corruption. And importantly, neither Fani Willis nor Nathan Wade are being charged with anything in court. However, defendants in Willis’s interference case against Trump are using it against her.

Here are the basics: In February of 2021, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating allegations of former president Donald Trump’s interference in the state’s election. In the fall of 2021, she appointed Nathan Wade as a special prosecutor in that case, despite Wade having “little experience prosecuting criminal cases in the Atlanta area,” according to the Washington Post. Then earlier this month, Willis was subpoenaed to appear at Wade’s divorce proceedings, leading the legal team for Michael Roman, a co-defendant in Trump’s election interference case, to file to have the case thrown out due to a conflict of interest.

That motion is likely to slow down the proceedings, but it’s a little ridiculous to request to have the whole case dismissed on those grounds. Conversely, it’s also ridiculous to suggest that any relationship between Wade and Willis is irrelevant; and it’s even more ridiculous to suggest that any criticism about Willis’s appointment of Wade is racial, as Willis has.

Ultimately, the relationship and Wade’s appointment are not legal issues. But district attorneys are half lawyer and half politician, and it’s really bad politics for Willis. The personal allegations against Willis are going to slow down her case against Trump and his co-defendants, and they make for some very bad optics for a district attorney who has already had her share of missteps. And unless she changes tack in how she responds to the criticisms, Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp may be forced to respond. And that would really have an impact on the state’s case.

It’s definitely a real issue for Wade and for Willis, and Trump’s legal team is smart to press it.

Q: As fair, thorough and impartial as you are, I'm amazed that you missed the real reason that Former Speaker McCarthy lost his position. Here it is. After reaching across the aisle and getting bipartisan support for his extension, that Sunday, he went on CBS' Face The Nation and blamed the Democrats for the near shutdown. That caused the Democrats to vote as a block against him during his recall proceedings. His interview was right after an interview with two members of the House Problem Solving Caucus (a Republican and a Democrat) wherein they said that they had ways of protecting Speaker McCarthy and would use them. I doubt that Speaker Johnson will make the same mistake (he hasn't so far). How did you miss that?

— Jeff from Orange Park, Florida

Tangle: I actually don’t think we got this wrong. It’s true that McCarthy shot himself in the foot by trashing Democrats on the Sunday morning shows. It is also true that Democrats said they were considering bailing him out throughout the process, but they never gave any real indication they were going to do that — if anything, it seemed more like they were trying to keep their options open as they watched the potential motion to vacate unfold.

I sincerely doubt Democrats would have rescued McCarthy from being removed even if he hadn’t made those comments, given that many Democrats thought it would look terrible for Republicans to have to go through another Speaker fight (I think they were mostly right about that). The dysfunction in the House was good for them, politically, and back then there were even fever dreams that enough dysfunction could lead to a Speaker Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) or a moderate Republican House Speaker.

Also, one of the things I said about McCarthy was that his downfall was due in part to the promises he made that he couldn’t keep. I focused mainly on his promises to the House’s conservative conference, but his relationship with Democrats also falls squarely into that category. 

To your point, though, I’ll say two things: 1) I think McCarthy could have saved himself by cutting a deal with Democrats, something he refused to do. 2) He didn’t really need the whole caucus. If McCarthy had gotten just a dozen or so Democrats in his corner, he likely could have stayed in power — though it certainly would have significantly complicated his leadership role to have been rescued by the opposition party. 

To that end, you are definitely right that one possible way for McCarthy to have stayed in power would’ve been to treat Democrats better in general, and that he bungled that.

Q: In a country that is quickly becoming overpopulated, wouldn't declining birth rates be a positive thing? Living space in major cities is becoming limited and expensive, and with our current population numbers, we're quickly burning through our nation's (and planet's) resources.

— Nick from Denver, Colorado

Q: Saul and Ari… We hit a billion around 1800. 2 billion around 1900. Since then we have quadrupled our population. With technology we are feeding most. I believe there are costs, the climate for one. There are probably others. It might not hurt us to slow down a bit. I have to grant you, my wife and I had 2 children, so I contributed. I'm just wondering if it might be beneficial to think of 2 as healthy and maybe a way to let the population decline at least somewhat. I'm wondering if 8 billion might be too much.

— Harry from Pompton Plains, New Jersey

Tangle: Ari here, since I contribute a lot to Tangle’s environmental coverage and this was addressed partially to me. We received a lot of polite and confrontational feedback (the best kind) to this answer to a reader question through all channels — in questions submitted through our online form, replies to Isaac’s personal inbox, and in comments on the article. And all of that confrontational feedback raised variations on the same point, which is best summarized by this excellent piece of graffiti I read on a Chicago sidewalk 15 years ago: The only two things capable of infinite growth are capitalism and a brain tumor.

Which is to say that, of course, nothing is. If we, like a mass of cancer cells, attempt to grow indefinitely, then like a cancer we will eventually consume all our resources and kill our host (i.e. Earth). 

That’s a fair point. Bombastically made, but still — we’ve structured a global society around national economies that function on the presumption of sustained growth, which is ecologically impossible to maintain indefinitely. That means that either the laws of ecology will have to change, or our global economy will. And I believe that humanity will adapt and learn to thrive with a sustained non-increasing population, because adapting is what we do.

I think we’re still a few decades off before we get to economically sustaining a steady population, and in order to get there I believe we’ll make compoundingly more small changes in our global consumption habits. I believe that because we already are making them, and through continued adaptations and innovations we can mitigate some of the worst effects of our global population’s sustained growth. I also believe we’ll be unable to divert some of those effects, which — not to celebrate the morbid — will involuntarily curtail some of our population growth.

Which gets us to the heart of the matter: Can we reach a sustainable population level voluntarily, before we suffer a species-level catastrophe? It’s a wicked problem with many factors and subsequent questions, many of which are hard to face and answer: What size and scope of deadly effects of resource scarcity are tolerable? How tolerable is the global underclass — a status quo in which most of the global population growth is occurring in countries that have the lowest standards of living (and ergo lowest consumption habits) — and how do we sustainably raise it? How do we model and forecast our growth in a way that allows for, and even encourages, innovation? And perhaps most importantly, can we shift our economy towards one that asks for prosperity growth without population growth?

For the developing world, the problem is very complicated; but for the U.S., there’s plenty of reason to believe that we can have a stable population with an economy based on efficiency gains and not population growth. As we originally said (and to be fair to Isaac), “we don’t want to be too far” under the replacement rate — but as many of you wrote in to point out, we also don’t want to be too far past it. 

The global ecology and global economy are both vitally important to our species’s advancement; and I can’t resist noting that both words are rooted in the same Greek word, oikos, or “house.” We have to get our house in order, without sacrificing either the ecology or economy.

Everything I just wrote could be the beginning of a 400-page book exploring the topic of the tensions between ecology and economy, but I’ll skip right to that book’s likely conclusion: Advanced global economies are getting to a point where they can thrive without population growth, but we aren’t there quite yet, and we’ll probably need to both make many technological advancements and normalize some global immigration to get to a point where we’re consistently maintaining a population at or below Earth’s carrying capacity.

We’ll be skipping the normal reader question, under the radar, numbers, and extras sections of our newsletter today to give more space to the reader questions we covered.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Have a nice day.

In Tokyo, Japan — a global city of wealth, culture, and fine food — there's an out-of-place sight next to the city’s chic cafes that often causes passersby to do a double-take. A tiny unattended produce stand — with weather-beaten wood tables bowing under the weight of stacks of carrots, potatoes, and mandarin oranges — sits in a quiet alley. Odder still, payment for the produce is on the honor system, and most of the items offered are priced at 100 yen, or about 70 cents. Then there’s the stand’s target demographic. A handwritten note on the stall reads: "Dear young people… I came here from Hiroshima with nothing. Lived on watermelon for a month, but couldn't ask mom for help. Thirty years on, I grow plenty of vegetables," the note continues. "Tomo-chan is on your side, so don't worry about the future." The generous offering is an oasis to the often stressed and overworked young people in Tokyo. "Lonely, struggling financially. Working my way through school is hard. You've become like a second mother to me,” an appreciative customer said in a note left at the stand. CBS News has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.