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The Weekly Arc: September 15, 2017

Welcome to Arc’s newsletter, sent out once per week, highlighting the best and most interesting stories from Medium and from around the web. The Weekly Arc is curated by Berny Belvedere. Past editions can be accessed here.

Trump’s Democratic Turn

On Wednesday night, in a Blue Room dinner at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the president reached a tentative agreement with the Democratic leaders: The young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” would be allowed to stay in the country in exchange for a border security package that does not include funding for Trump’s wall. — The Washington Post

This comes on the heels of another agreement, also between Trump, Schumer, and Pelosi, concerning the raising of the debt ceiling.

Naturally, the question arises: has Trump taken a Democratic turn, or are these the first of what will ultimately amount to a small number of instances in which the Republican president bypasses his own party legislatively?

Schumer has his own theory:

“He likes us. He likes me, anyway,” Mr. Schumer was overheard saying on the Senate floor on Thursday, adding that he had told the president, “You’re much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step left.”

Moving only in one direction, Mr. Schumer recalled telling Mr. Trump, meant he was “boxed” in. — The New York Times

Schumer’s explanation as to why Trump has decided to work with Democrats is persuasive precisely because Schumer keeps his analysis at Trump’s level of intellectual capacity.

Perhaps it’s all as simple as Trump “liking” someone, and understanding at a primitive level that working with such a person enlarges his options. There is no four-dimensional chess; no meticulous strategy to game out the midterms — there is just liking someone.

I think this analysis is undercooked. But there is more to it than just Schumer exhibiting self-satisfaction.

Tax Reform

The “Big Six” are deeply divided over how to rewrite the tax code, including how to finance long-promised cuts in individual and corporate rates.

Though House Republicans are promising to release a plan the week of Sept. 25, the top congressional and administration negotiators remain at loggerheads over a number of items, including plans to reduce a deduction for state and local taxes, as well as one for corporate interest expenses.

“Right now, the Senate and the House are pretty far apart,” said one Republican aide, whose account was confirmed by another source. “There’s serious frustration.” …

One major hang-up is whether to adopt a plan that would allow companies to immediately deduct the cost of their investments, sources say.

Known as “expensing,” it’s a top priority for House Republican leaders because many economists say it’s one of the best things lawmakers can do for economic growth. What’s more, House Speaker Paul Ryan has already compromised on one of his other top priorities, a now-discarded proposal to create a “border adjustable” business tax that would have hit import-reliant companies.

But the deduction is hugely expensive, and Senate Republicans believe it won’t fly in their chamber.

The White House, not to mention many in the business community, is much more interested in cutting the corporate tax rate as deeply as possible, though that is also pricey at roughly $100 billion for each percentage point reduction.

The Big Six are also divided over how sharply to cut a long-standing deduction for corporate interest expenses. House Republicans have proposed ending it entirely, which would raise some $1 trillion, covering a big chunk of the cost of any plan. But the break is important to many companies, and other negotiators want to only reduce it.

The group is also at odds over eliminating a long-standing deduction that individuals can take for the state and local taxes they pay. Ryan has repeatedly called for eliminating it entirely, calling it a subsidy for state governments, but some are concerned over what that would mean for upper-middle-class people. — Politico

Irma Damage

Weather.com has a report in which it assesses the damage wrought by Irma. I’ll pick out some notable items.

In the Caribbean:

  • More than three dozen people killed as a result of the storm.
  • Upwards of 99 percent of structures were at least partly damaged in hard-hit Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos.
  • Ronald Sanders, who has served as Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S., said of the island. “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.”
  • The situation remains dire in parts of the Caribbean with some residents running out of food and water as power outages linger.
  • In the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA and the U.S. military were helping to rescue people still blocked in their homes by debris, nearly a week after Irma devastated the islands, NBC News reported.

In Florida:

  • At least 35 have died as a result of the storm.
  • The storm has ruined what was expected to be the best season for citrus in years. Instead, fruit growers and farmers fear the damage Irma wrought on the state’s citrus, sugar cane, and vegetable crops will be catastrophic.
  • More than 1.8 million customers were without power in Florida as of Friday morning.
  • Federal Emergency Management Administration head Brock Long said 25 percent of the homes in the Keys was destroyed. Another 65 percent suffered major damage.

In Georgia and South Carolina:

  • At least three dead in Georgia, and three dead in South Carolina as a result of the storm.
  • Across Georgia, pecan growers lost 30 percent of their crop, and cotton farmers lost 20–40 percent.
  • South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said Tuesday he did not order an evacuation of the city due to the number of routes out of the city. He added that he had to weigh the tourism economic impact of an evacuation.

Apple’s iPhone X

Apple’s new iPhone X, unveiled on Tuesday with an edge-to-edge OLED display and a $999 price tag, is bound to shake up the high-end smartphone market in unforeseen ways. We don’t know how it will impact Apple’s overall sales, or whether it will set off a kind of mobile arms race to see which phone maker can outdo the other in the upper premium price point.

It’s already dividing both diehard Apple fans and longtime iOS detractors over the very idea of a phone costing into the four digits. More than any device before it, the X is testing both the value we put on smartphones and consumers’ willingness to pay for the best Apple to has offer. …

The most obvious standout feature of the iPhone X is the OLED screen, which the lucky few who’ve held it say is probably the most stunning smartphone screen they’ve ever seen. …

Hidden inside the small notch cutout at the top of the iPhone X is a significant number of new camera parts and sensors that do more than just transpose your face onto an emoji cat or scan it to unlock your phone. The front-facing camera module now contains an infrared camera, flood illuminator, proximity scanner, ambient light sensor, speaker, microphone, 7-megapixel camera, and dot projector. All of that together combines into what Apple calls its TrueDepth camera, used for Animoji, Face ID, and a number of cool camera tricks.

[But…]

Apple has set the starting cost for its flagship product, for the very first time, at north of $1,000, when you factor in taxes or the 256GB storage configuration. … There is no getting around this being an eye-popping price for a device most customers associate with a $600 to $800 range. — The Verge

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This Week In History

September 15

1821 — After the Mexican War for Independence, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua declare their independence from Spain.

September 16

1925 — B.B. King, the blues virtuoso, is born.

September 17

1862 — The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the Civil War, leaving nearly 23,000 dead or wounded, takes place.

September 18

1970 — Jimi Hendrix (b. 1942), rock and roll legend and guitar genius, passes away.

September 19

1881 — James A. Garfield (b. 1831), the 20th President of the United States, is assassinated.

September 20

2001 — In response to the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush declares a “War on Terror.”

September 21

1866 — H. G. Wells, the English writer most known for his science fiction stories, is born.

Quote

We all have our time machines, don’t we? Those that take us back are memories. … Those that carry us forward, are dreams.

— H. G. Wells

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