Trump’s Mexican tariffs; Russia’s AI plan; Alleged Illegal nuclear tests; News vs. leading causes of death in the US; And a bit more.

Tariffs and tweets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 260 points (CNBC) and global markets are sinking today on President Trump’s Thursday evening tweet announcing new U.S. tariffs on Mexico in the hopes of curbing immigration.

In Trump’s own words: “On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed. Details from the White House to follow.”

Invoked: The International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which the New York Times writes “gives the president broad power to take action to address any ‘unusual or extraordinary threat.’”

Escalation #1: “If the crisis persists,” the White House announced in a post-tweet statement, “the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019.”

Escalation #2: “Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States,” the WH statement continued, “Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019.”

Escalation #3: Then the number jumps “to 20 percent on September 1, 2019.”

Escalation #4: And again “to 25 percent on October 1, 2019.” And that’s where tariffs will stay “permanently… unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.”

The markets’ reax: “Japan’s Nikkei (N225) slumped 1.6%,” CNN reports this morning. “Markets in Europe also opened lower. Britain’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.8%. Stocks in Germany shed 1.3%, and in France they dipped 1%.” NYT added Thursday evening that almost immediately, “The Mexican peso weakened against the American dollar, while shares of Japanese automakers fell because many of them have manufacturing facilities in Mexico.” The Wall Street Journal this morning writes “The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasurys declined to 2.158% from 2.227% on Thursday, hitting a fresh 20-month low. Yields on German 10-year bunds fell to minus 0.208%, matching an all-time low reached in July 2016. Dutch 10-year government bond yields turned negative for the first time since October 2016, at minus 0.011%.”

Said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in a statement posted to his Twitter account on Thursday: “Social problems are not resolved with taxes or coercive measures…People don’t leave their homelands for pleasure but out of necessity. I don’t lack courage, I’m not a coward or timid, but act out of principles. I believe in politics which, among other things, was invented to avoid confrontation and war.”

ICYMI: “On Wednesday, more than 1,000 Central Americans crossed into the El Paso area to surrender to U.S. authorities, the largest group of migrants that U.S. border agents have taken into custody at a single time,” the Washington Post reported. Seizing the moment, “Trump tweeted a video of the apprehension late Thursday, declaring that ‘Democrats need to stand by our incredible Border Patrol and finally fix the loopholes at our Border!’”

Context: Southern border apprehensions are rising sharply after a decade of generally lower rates, thanks to thousands of people fleeing violence in Central America.

For the record, Mexico is Washington’s largest trading partner, the Times writes, “sending across the border items like tomatoes, cars and rugs. Mexico sent the United States $346.5 billion of goods last year — meaning that a 5 percent tariff on those products would amount to a tax increase of more than $17 billion.”

And that means “Most of the costs” of Trump’s tariffs “would then be passed on to businesses and consumers.”

Said Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “The situation is both a humanitarian and a border security crisis that has become a national emergency.”

McAleenan’s advice to Mexico: “increase security at the border with Guatemala, crack down on criminal gangs that help migrants and help the United States more with asylum seekers,” according to the Times.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa: “Trade policy and border security are separate issues…This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent. I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.” However, no one yet expects lawmakers to oppose this move in any substantial way.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii: “The President is unilaterally imposing the equivalent of a 17 billion dollar sales tax which sounds not very free market-y to me but I guess MAGA is like a wand you wave to make all of your previous principles disappear,” via Twitter.

Where to go from here? Mexico’s President Obrador said he’s sending his foreign minister to D.C. today “to arrive at an agreement that benefits both nations.” More from the Washington Post, here.


From Defense One

Putin Drops Hints about Upcoming National AI Strategy // Samuel Bendett: Russian leader calls for “technological sovereignty” and, somewhat surprisingly, for protecting IP and civil rights.

A Stain on the Honor of the Navy // Eliot A. Cohen, The Atlantic: In acceding to a White House request to cover the name of the USS John S. McCain, officers and officials revealed a rot within the service.

There’s Too Little Outcry When a Government Blocks the Internet // Samuel Woodhams: For its own citizens’ safety, and for grand strategy’s sake, the U.S. government needs to up the pressure.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Budget talks fizzle; ‘Emergency’ arms deal?; What’s on CEOs’ minds; and more…

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. On this day in 1990, President Bush hosted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the South Lawn of the White House for talks on how to best reunify Germany, which happened five months later.


Navy and Pentagon officials clarified Wednesday’s WSJ report about the White House ordering the Navy to obscure John McCain’s name on the USS John S. McCain destroyer during Trump’s visit to Japan on Tuesday (local time).
“Initial efforts to obscure the ship’s name were under way by lower-level officials until more senior naval officials—including Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who commands the Seventh Fleet—and naval officers in Japan and Hawaii realized what was being undertaken and stopped it,” the Journal reported in a follow-up Thursday evening.  
Now, “Senators plan to ask [Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan] in his confirmation hearing about what he knew of the request to move the USS John McCain, congressional aides said. One aide said the episode raised concerns about Mr. Shanahan’s leadership abilities and whether he would be able to effectively push back against the president.”

U.S. intel officials say Russia is “likely” testing low-yield nuclear weapons, “mark[ing] the first time the U.S. has said the Kremlin hasn’t strictly observed its commitments under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday citing a new U.S. intelligence assessment.
The quick read: “At issue are activities at Novaya Zemlya, a remote archipelago above the Arctic Circle where Russia conducts nuclear tests. There, Russia likely has tested nuclear weapons with very low yields, as part of its push to develop new nuclear weapons, U.S. intelligence analysts said.”
One big problem: This complaint is hardly new, Jeffrey Lewis wrote in a lengthy, history-packed Twitter thread Wednesday evening. His quick opener: “This is not news. There are people in the US intelligence community who have been arguing for more than two decades that Russia is conducting low-yield nuclear testing in violation of its obligations under the CTBT.” Seriously worth the click, here.

Meanwhile, China is expected to double its own nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to a new assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency. DIA’s director, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., offered some takeaways during a Wednesday talk at the Hudson Institute. 1) Beijing is executing “the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history. 2) Like Russia, China is covertly testing low-yield nuclear weapons in violation of a 23-year old international treaty. Here are Ashley’s remarks as prepared by DIA, and Time has coverage, here.
Speaking of: “A train-based ballistic missile model is on display at the newly opened missile exhibition area of the China Military Museum,” OSINT-watcher @dafengcao noticed and tweeted overnight.

A word of caution from North Korea, where officials reportedly killed several officials involved in negotiations with the U.S. at the failed Trump-Kim summit this past March in Vietnam — according to a South Korean media outlet (Chosun Ilbo) with a spotty track record on similar stories. And the origin for these stories? One unnamed “source who knows about North Korea.”
Allegedly killed: Kim Hyok Chol, who was once Pyongyang’s Ambassador to Spain and who had served as the North’s envoy for talks with the U.S. early this year. He was reportedly charged with spying for the U.S. before being “executed at Mirim Airport with four foreign ministry officials in March,” according to Chosun.
FWIW: The Wall Street Journal reports “high-level defectors” are skeptical Kim Hyok Chol was in fact killed.
Also allegedly put in “hard labor” camps:

  • Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyang’s official in charge of 2018 negotiations and who met President Trump at the White House.
  • And Shin Hye Yong, Kim Jong Un’s interpreter for the Hanoi summit. The reason given: “undermined the authority of the highest dignity” [that is, Kim Jong-un] by making a mistranslation mistake, Chosun reported.

For more on times when Chosun has been wrong, the Associated Press produced a handy explainer just this morning.
Larger significance: “That the report has been snapped up by global media reflects the hunger for any details about what’s going on in North Korea as diplomatic efforts falter between Washington and Pyongyang,” AP writes, “which tightly controls its media and both local and foreign access to information.”
Said U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo after reporters brought up the report during his stop in Berlin: The U.S. is “doing our best to check it out… Just as President Trump gets to decide who his negotiators will be, Chairman Kim will get to make his own decisions who he asks to have these discussions.”

And lastly this week: How do the leading causes of death in the U.S. match with 1) media coverage and 2) what people search for online? Find out in this take from Our World in Data, which scans article mentions in the New York Times and in The Guardian to ask, “Does the news reflect what we die from?”
Why even ask? “We come to expect news updates with increasing frequency, and media channels have clear incentives to deliver,” OWiD’s Hannah Ritchie writes. “This locks us into a cycle of expectation and coverage with a strong bias for outlier events. Most of us are left with a skewed perception of the world; we think the world is much worse than it is.”
Some of the takeaways:

  • “Around one-third of the considered causes of deaths resulted from heart disease, yet this cause of death receives only 2-3 percent of Google searches and media coverage.”
  • “Just under one-third of the deaths came from cancer…but it receives only 13-14 percent of media coverage.”
  • “Violent deaths (that is, suicide, homicide and terrorism) account for more than two-thirds of coverage…but account for less than 3 percent of the total deaths in the US.”

But the biggest takeaway (for us) was this: Terrorism “is overrepresented in the news by almost a factor of 4000.” A distant second: “Homicides are also very overrepresented in the news, by a factor of 31.”
What we can all do: Boost our awareness of unconscious cognitive biases. Here are 20 of them from Business Insider. Or review the mega-collection of more than 150 of them in a single graphic, here.

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