Opinion | How Prohibition Shaped Harlem

In 1929, a young African-American artist named Elmer Simms Campbell arrived in New York to pursue his dream of becoming an illustrator. Armed with a degree from the Chicago Art Institute, he nevertheless faced a string of rejections because of his race. But a far more generous welcome awaited him uptown in Harlem.

It was there that he became a friend of Cab Calloway’s, the famed bandleader of the Cotton Club; the two men became drinking buddies and regulars at the many speakeasies and jazz clubs that drew thousands of revelers to northern Manhattan during Prohibition.

In 1932, Mr. Campbell drew an energetic road map of Harlem’s hot spots for Manhattan magazine, a portrait that directly conveys the limited reach of Prohibition on the eve of repeal. In fact, a closer look at the map captures the many complex and unintended consequences of the 18th Amendment.

The emergence of American jazz itself owed much to the twin forces of migration and discrimination: More than a million African-Americans left the rural South in the 1910s, and the segregation they encountered in other parts of New York drove many to settle in Harlem.

That racial prejudice extended to the clubs in the neighborhood. Duke Ellington may have been welcome as a performer at the Cotton Club, but certainly not as a patron; most of the nightclubs Mr. Campbell identified were owned by, and catered to, whites. But there were important exceptions, such as the Savoy Ballroom, home of the Lindy Hop and one of the few racially integrated nightclubs in the area. Small’s Paradise, which Mr. Campbell described as home to “café au lait girls and dancing waiters,” was owned and patronized by blacks.

The Savoy Ballroom

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Small’s Paradise

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Fueling all of this creativity and energy was alcohol. Though Prohibition had been in effect for 10 years by the time Mr. Campbell arrived in New York, notoriously selective enforcement of the law made Harlem a nightly destination not just for African-Americans but also for middle-class whites in search of booze and urban thrills. And while Prohibition laws decimated the local saloon, they also inadvertently led to the emergence of large clubs with well-connected owners, who could reliably fend off raids by the vice squad. Mr. Campbell wryly makes note of this corruption at the upper right corner of his map, where officers placidly play cards in “the nice new police station” while mayhem reigns outside.

The selective enforcement of Prohibition also made Harlem a space to flout convention (up to a point). At the center of the map is Gladys Bentley, a pathbreaking African-American cross-dressing performer. Elsewhere we see men and women drinking together in public, entertained by raucous revues and easily available “marahuana” cigarettes.

Police Station

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Gladys Bentley

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‘Marahuana’ Cigarettes

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Harlem’s black residents, of course, had little political power to challenge or influence the less desirable aspects of the scene that came to characterize their neighborhood. But in capturing the lively mood of liberation and self-fulfillment, Mr. Campbell shows us one of the great ironies of Prohibition: In seeking to restore order and convention, it inadvertently ushered in a more urbane and modern sensibility, one that appears utterly familiar to us today. Some of nation’s earliest radio broadcasts — in fact — were live performances at the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club, making Calloway, Ellington, and other band leaders household names in an emerging mass culture.

Prohibition ended in 1933; that same year, the newly founded Esquire magazine hired Mr. Campbell as a staff artist. For the next 38 years he illustrated the magazine in the same knowing, urbane and witty style at work in this map of Harlem. Yet even at the height of his later success, he could hardly have anticipated the fortune awaiting that Harlem map he drew in his youth: In 2016 Yale acquired it for $100,000.

Susan Schulten is professor of history at the University of Denver and the author of “A History of America in 100 Maps.”

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Brexit, Glaciers, Syria: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

Another day of political drama in Britain, a fatal ISIS attack in Syria and the dangers of rapidly melting glaciers in Central Asia. Here’s the latest:

Theresa May survives leadership challenge over Brexit

Parliament voted 325 to 306 against a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May, a day after it rejected her plan to withdraw from the E.U.

Many lawmakers from her own party, who just a day earlier opposed her plan, voted to support her government, underscoring the complex politics around Brexit.

What’s next? Mrs. May has to present a Plan B for Brexit. She promised to consult with Parliament and somehow craft a deal that could get approved. But E.U. officials have already said they’re unwilling to reopen negotiations, leaving Mrs. May with little new to offer. There is growing speculation she could ask to postpone Britain’s divorce from the bloc.

Go deeper: The no-confidence vote added pressure on the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, too. He now faces mounting calls for a second referendum on Britain’s split from the E.U.

Analysis: Mrs. May’s failure to corral her own party has upended Britain’s political system, where prime ministers typically exercise iron-fisted control over Parliament.

Pelosi calls for postponing the State of the Union

Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump to reschedule the annual speech — typically an occasion for the president to make a case for his policy agenda — citing security concerns from the government shutdown.

Context: The State of the Union address is one of the highest-stakes events for federal law enforcement each year, with the leadership of all three branches of government gathering in one place. The Secret Service, which leads security at the speech, has been affected by the shutdown.

The speech is currently scheduled for Jan. 29, and the invitation to deliver the address is traditionally at the speaker’s discretion.

Why it matters: Rescheduling the speech would have another benefits for the Democrats: taking away a nationally televised platform from the president.

Go deeper: The shutdown is now in its fourth week and has had wide-ranging effects around the country. Here’s a breakdown of all our latest reporting.

Islamic State kills American troops in Syria attack

A suicide bombing claimed by the terrorist group killed 15 people in the northern city of Manbij. American troops were among the dead and wounded, according to a Defense Department official, though it was unclear how many.

Before the attack, two American troops had been killed in Syria since the U.S. sent forces to the country in 2015.

Why it matters: The attack came just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops and declared the Islamic State defeated.

Melting glaciers threaten the water supply for millions

On a typical summer day, high above the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan, rivulets of melted ice stream down the edge of the Tuyuksu glacier.

Melting is a normal process in the constant evolution of glaciers. But in a warming climate, snow in winter can’t make up the difference, resulting in a net loss of ice.

Last year, scientists found that the Tuyuksu glacier was melting like mad — parts of it were three feet thinner than they were the year before. The glacier is getting shorter, too: In six decades, it has retreated more than half a mile.

Why it matters: Melting glaciers contribute to rising sea levels, can lead to disastrous floods and alter river ecosystems. On top of that, glaciers feed rivers, which in turn provide water for cities and farmers. Flows will eventually decline, affecting hundreds of millions of people in countries like India, Pakistan and China.

Here’s what else is happening

Kenya: The death toll in a terrorist attack by Shabab militants rose to 14 people, Kenya’s president said. All the assailants who stormed a luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi had been “eliminated,” he added, but the country remained on the highest alert.

Trump and Putin: Since 2016, President Trump has had at least five face-to-face meetings with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. What they said to each other is a mystery — one now drawing fresh scrutiny from Mr. Trump’s critics.

China: A Canadian man sentenced to death by a Chinese court for smuggling drugs intends to appeal, one of his lawyers said. The move could buy time while Canada seeks to secure his clemency, but comes amid a widening diplomatic rift between the two countries.

Afghanistan: New leadership in Kabul has been working to restore order and crack down on crime, bringing a rare sense of hope to the capital city.

Indra Nooyi: The White House is considering the former chief executive of PepsiCo to lead the World Bank, according to several people familiar with the matter. However, the process is still in its early stages — and it’s unclear whether Ms. Nooyi would accept the nomination if chosen.

Australian Open: Rafael Nadal, Sloane Stephens and Roger Federer sailed through the second round. Here’s a look at the only top male tennis pro, Lucas Pouille, currently coached by a woman outside his immediate family. And follow along here for the latest from Melbourne.

‘Rail delay scarf’: A commuter in Germany decided to knit a scarf representing a year of transit headaches, and the four-foot multicolored result turned into a social media sensation, fetching about $8,650 on eBay.

Margaret River: The remote Western Australian region, which boasts stunning landscapes, has leaned into its major food and wine festival to become a new tourist hot spot.

Chennai: There are many reasons to be excited about the South Indian city, our Frugal Traveler columnist found, from good food to beautiful houses of worship.

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Add caramelized onions to a classic chicken piccata.

Open-minded medical treatment abroad can be difficult to find. Here are a few helpful resources.

Looking for edginess in East London? We recommend visiting these five places.

Back Story

The Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend.

It’s followed by the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada later this month.

So what defines cowboy poetry?

“If it talks about agriculture or the Western way of life, horses, cattle — it counts,” said Bob Welch, a former editor of American Cowboy magazine.

He added: “If the author has a mustache, that certainly helps.”

(Women do participate, though the field remains male-dominated.)

The tradition dates back to cattle-drive days after the Civil War, when cowhands passed time inventing ballads about their work.

It entered the modern era through people like Baxter Black, a former large-animal veterinarian who wrote lyrics on long drives between ranches — and went on to sell over a million books.

“I would say the people who participate, 90 percent of them have some connection to livestock,” Mr. Black said.

That wouldn’t surprise Mr. Welch: “Since the beginning,” he said, “cowboys have been romantics.”

Gregory Cowles, the Book Review’s poetry editor, wrote today’s Back Story.

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Commentary: How to handle the U.S.-China trade talks

As U.S. and Chinese delegations prepare for upcoming trade talks in Beijing, the two countries’ disputes over tariffs and trade are rattling markets, businesses, governments, consumers and workers across the globe. All of this corrosive uncertainty was entirely predictable – and explains why Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping failed to reach an agreement when they met at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November.

Elaborate negotiations take tenacity, expertise and planning. They also take time.

There are certainly real challenges in the U.S.-China relationship. And virtually all progress Washington makes with its Chinese counterparts has come from an intense series of talks. At one point in the negotiations to allow U.S. beef access into Chinese markets, for example, the battle was down to experts debating a final letter – whether or not to include the letter “s” at the end of the word cow to determine traceability requirements for American cattle.

But this approach works. From these agreements and countless other negotiations, clear lessons emerge. Here are some of them:

PLAN: Negotiations like these require intense preparation. They require input from experts on the region and the issues – and forethought on which of a wide array of options your side would like to resolve, knowing that most will be cast aside and the focus will ultimately center on a handful of true priorities. During a 2014 visit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi, this planning resulted in agreements on everything from climate to trade to visa validity and more.

KNOW WHERE YOU’LL GO – AND WHERE YOU WON’T: Chinese negotiators come to these discussions immensely well-prepped, with clear knowledge of where they might give and where they won’t. Their American counterparts typically do as well. To not do so is to lose before you walk through the door.

By drawing firm lines on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, freedom of the press and more, the United States has long made clear where defined boundaries exist. It’s when and where the give exists elsewhere that it gets more interesting.

FIND LEVERAGE: When Chinese economic espionage spiked in 2015, Washington threatened sanctions ahead of a U.S. summit with Xi. Rather than face those sanctions and the prospect of a challenging state visit, China sent a special envoy from the Communist Party’s central committee ahead of that visit as it scrambled to undo the damage done.

Like Trump’s tariffs or not, they have provided the U.S. president with leverage. Whether or not that leverage will yield enduring outcomes depends on what he does with it.

USE THAT LEVERAGE: Those cyber negotiations yielded a U.S.-China accord that not only still stands, but reduced cyber incursions dramatically in the years that followed. It was the fear of these sanctions and an underwhelming state visit plus intense negotiations that drove the U.S. success. Some of those same fears exist now.

DETAILS MATTER: This is where experts on the National Security Council and agencies like the State Department matter most. From human rights and civil society concerns on through market access and intellectual property, negotiators can exploit vagaries to deny or delay for months and even years if they don’t want to comply without specific terms and dates.

It took pushing up against too many non-specific promises by Chinese officials claiming “we’ll soon be dining on American beef” for that beef access to finally happen, and even longer to secure approval to sell U.S. biotech. A World Trade Organization decision and countless pushes finally got U.S. credit cards accepted into Chinese markets last year.

PUSH BOUNDARIES, BUT TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWER: When it’s clear, after extensive back and forth, that you can make progress and there’s no more yield, bank the win.

Negotiations to encourage China to join the Paris climate accords took months of envoys flying back and forth before Beijing finally set real emissions targets – and stuck to them. While it wasn’t everything the U.S. side sought, China’s agreement was a stunning development that led other countries to announce emissions reductions and join the agreement as well.

Trump’s approach counters a number of these lessons. He appears to engage in little substantive pre-negotiation planning beyond the stagecraft and has repeatedly squandered his “final say” leverage by trying to solve longstanding crises without the necessary preparation, details or experts on hand to help seal the deal.

That discordant approach is how the Trump administration ended up with a series of purported wins from China that are mainly rehashed promises. It’s why the president bargained for another shot at a Qualcomm-NXP merger that was dead for months and even the companies involved don’t want to revive. And it results in announcements made, clarified, backtracked and more.

The U.S.-China relationship faces real problems. But it takes knowing the issues and the potential outcomes, and the substantive engagement of policy experts, for U.S. negotiators to get real yield. Instead, Americans have been left with a myriad of unanswered questions on issues like auto tariffs and what will happen when the 90-day “truce deadline” expires in March.

Trump was encouraged by his call with Xi in recent days, tweeting that “big progress” is being made. Xi’s message was more tempered, saying both sides had been working hard to reach consensus and that he hoped they “will meet each other halfway.”

The financial world, the global markets and U.S. political allies – not to mention the American public – crave both progress and certainty. In Buenos Aires, Washington and Beijing set a 90-day window to resolve the tariff issue. But much like when the clock began ticking, without a plan going into these negotiations, there won’t be real outcomes emerging from them. The United States can – and should – do better.

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Opinion | William Barr and the Mueller Report

To the Editor:

Re “Barr Makes Promise to Senate: He’ll Let Mueller Finish Inquiry” (front page, Jan. 16):

Nothing less than the future well-being of the Republic lies in the balance as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of William Barr for attorney general.

It is evident that President Trump is acting in the interests of a foreign power and contrary to American interests. It is unthinkable to confirm a nominee for attorney general who equivocates about the release of the extensive investigative report by Robert Mueller that every member of Congress must be permitted to see in full.

If Mr. Barr cannot straight out commit to the release of Mr. Mueller’s full report to Congress, with some possible redactions of the names of nongovernment individuals for reasons of their safety, then Mr. Barr must be unanimously voted down in committee. This is not the time to play with fire.

Congress must have the information it needs to fully evaluate the role that Mr. Trump has played in what is the undeniable large-scale undermining of American security.

Joe Grossman
Boulder, Colo.

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Opinion | The Chart That Shows the Financial Peril Facing Many Federal Workers

Last Friday, the United States government failed to pay more than 800,000 of its workers. How will they cope with a payless payday?

For many Americans, the loss of a single paycheck can result in lasting damage and real hardship, and the same is true for government workers. We studied thousands of federal employees after the government shutdown of 2013. It was a relatively short shutdown, and because it didn’t cover a complete pay cycle, it reduced only one paycheck by 40 percent. The workers spent less and briefly delayed making payments on mortgages, rent and credit cards. Most emerged without lasting damage to their finances. Furthermore, they eventually got their missing pay.

But this shutdown is altogether different. It covers an entire two-week pay period, so Friday’s paycheck was not just smaller, it was missing entirely.

That’s where the trouble starts. Our study showed that a large majority of government workers didn’t have enough money in the bank to cover expenses for two weeks.

No Paycheck and No Financial Cushion

Almost two-thirds of federal workers likely have less than two weeks of expenses set aside to live, based on research of the 2013 government shutdown. Percentage of federal workers by the number of days’ expenses they can cover with cash reserves.

Less than 1 day

1–7 days

28%

18%

18%

36%

Two weeks or more

One to two weeks

Less than 1 day

1–7 days

28%

18%

18%

One to two weeks

36%

Two weeks or more

By The New York Times | Sources: Michael Gelman, Shachar Kariv, Matthew D. Shapiro, Dan Silverman and Steven Tadelis

About 20 percent just made it paycheck to paycheck; they had less than a typical day’s worth of spending in their accounts on the day before payday. This is not unusual even for people like federal employees who hold steady jobs at steady pay.

In this shutdown, however, it means that most affected workers will need to take multiple measures, sharply cutting discretionary spending and being late paying mortgages, rent and other bills.

It gets worse. There are few signs that this shutdown will soon be resolved and uncertainty about whether the workers will get paid retroactively.

Even if President Trump and Congress can’t reach an agreement to end the shutdown, they should, in the meantime, reduce the needless hardship to these workers and guarantee they will be paid when the shutdown is complete. On Monday, some progress was made on this front: Congress passed a bill under which all affected government workers would receive their lost pay as soon as the shutdown ends. Mr. Trump, whose executive order to freeze federal pay for 2019 signals little sympathy with the government’s work force, should sign the bill.

Otherwise the late payments that bankers and landlords tolerated in 2013 expecting prompt payment after the shutdown could turn into deep debt and evictions.

If the shutdown continues much longer, workers may face lasting financial damage even if they ultimately receive retroactive pay. If they miss a second paycheck, they will be short an entire month’s worth of spending power. Sure, some landlords and bill collectors may heed Mr. Trump’s call to “be nice and easy” on federal employees — but some won’t. Hits to credit scores from late payments do lasting harm.

The thousands of government employees should not find themselves fighting off creditors because our elected officials can’t stop fighting among themselves.

Matthew D. Shapiro is an economics professor at the University of Michigan. Shachar Kariv and Steven Tadelis are economics professors at the University of California, Berkeley. Michael Gelman is an economics professor at Claremont McKenna College. Dan Silverman is an economics professor at Arizona State University.

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Opinion | White Nationalism Loses in Court

This article is part of David Leonhardt’s newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday.

White nationalism lost in federal court yesterday.

Judge Jesse Furman blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question to the 2020 census asking about citizenship status. Furman “found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law by misleading the public — and his own department — about the reasons for adding the question,” Dara Lind of Vox writes.

Ross claimed, laughably, that the citizenship question would help the Trump administration enforce voting rights. In truth, it was designed to intimidate Latinos — both legal and illegal — into not responding to the census. The resulting undercount would then reduce the political representation of immigrant-heavy regions and cause them to receive less federal funding.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

The citizenship question, Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post, is part of “a broader effort on the part of Republicans to put a thumb on the electoral scale in every way they possibly can, whether it’s extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression efforts targeted at minorities, or the use of the census to make Republican victories just that much more likely.”

Yesterday’s ruling isn’t the final word. The Trump administration will likely appeal, and the appeal will likely reach the Supreme Court, where Republican-appointed justices hold a five-to-four majority.

But there is some reason to hope the justices will avoid an obviously partisan decision. Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the two newest conservative justices, have previously taken a dim view of federal officials who exceed limits on their power, The Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson explains. “While it’s always possible that the Court’s conservatives will vote ideology over principle … their particular judicial philosophies do not bode well for the Trump administration’s brazen defiance of administrative law,” Michaelson writes.

A side note: Given the combination of his census exploits, his lies about those exploits and his shady stock trades, Ross may now deserve consideration if my colleague Gail Collins revisits her analysis of the worst Trump Cabinet member. His case is helped by the fact that some of his even more corrupt colleagues have recently departed the administration.

Barr’s bar

William Barr’s answers about the Russia investigation weren’t great. Barr — the nominee for U.S. attorney general — told senators yesterday that he would not necessarily recuse himself from a case even if ethics officials found him to have a conflict of interest. And Barr refused to commit to a public release of Robert Mueller’s findings.

Yet I was still more encouraged than alarmed by yesterday’s confirmation hearing. At this point, I have extremely low expectations for Cabinet officials selected by President Trump. Barr beat these expectations by saying he would allow Mueller to finish his investigation of Trump. He also came off as substantially more competent and professional than much of the Trump team.

And once Mueller does finish his investigation, I think it’s unlikely that his findings will remain secret, regardless of what Barr tries to do. Mueller is a savvy political operator who understands how to use court filings and other means to inform the public of his work. Now that Democrats hold the House, they will also be able to help prevent the findings from remaining secret.

“The idea an unclassified Mueller report won’t end up at least de facto public strikes me as totally ridiculous,” tweeted the Georgetown political scientist Matt Glassman yesterday. “To sit on this thing would be almost instantly unsustainable politically.”

The crucial thing at this point is that Mueller be able to continue his work unimpeded. Given Barr’s past criticism of the investigation — which Andrew Cohen of the Brennan Center for Justice explains in Slate — he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. But his remarks yesterday were somewhat better than I had feared.

The Brexit mess

A quick word on the big parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan: Both the cancel-Brexit crowd and the Brexit-without-conditions crowd are feeling hopeful that they can prevail. This confidence has meant neither side has been willing to support May’s more moderate — but still radical — version of Brexit.

Britain’s political leaders are now sharply divided among these three broad camps, and none of them has a majority in Parliament. The next steps are uncertain. Any of the three sides could still prevail. If the Brexit-without-conditions side does, Britain could be in for a lot of pain.

(And, yes, today’s newsletter is unusually long, because yesterday was unusually newsy.)

If you are not a subscriber to this newsletter, you can subscribe here. You can also join me on Twitter (@DLeonhardt) and Facebook.

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David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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Opinion | The Integrity of William Barr

After the stormy tenure of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, the likely return of William Barr to the job — which he held with distinction under President George H.W. Bush — has been greeted with sighs of reliefs at the Justice Department. The reason is not hard to divine: Bill Barr is an accomplished lawyer with a deep respect for the law and for the integrity and independence of the department — something I know from having served under him. After his solid performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, he seems almost certain to be approved by the full Senate.

His critics have focused on a 19-page legal memorandum he sent over the summer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein questioning whether the special counsel, Robert Mueller, could investigate the president for violating criminal obstruction-of-justice laws. Democrats have demanded that if confirmed, Mr. Barr should recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe. But that response to Mr. Barr’s meticulous legal analysis is wildly overwrought.

A more dispassionate review of Mr. Barr’s memo shows that he was trying to prevent an unprecedented expansion of a federal criminal statute intended to prevent crimes such as destroying evidence, bribing prospective jurors, intimidating witnesses and the like. The memorandum expressly acknowledges that presidents, like other citizens, can run afoul of the criminal laws. But he questions whether a president can be investigated for actions that are expressly within his constitutional powers — such as firing an F.B.I. director. He is sounding a clear warning against prosecutorial overreach.

Indeed, one of Mr. Mueller’s senior prosecutors was a primary architect of a legal theory of obstruction that was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court, a rebuff delivered only after the prosecution caused the collapse of a major accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. That example does not stand alone. In case after case, a wary — and frequently unanimous — Supreme Court has knocked down legal theories drummed up by well-meaning but overly zealous federal prosecutors.

The inherent danger of prosecutorial overreach, the Barr memorandum emphasized, is all the more acute when applied in the sensitive context of presidential power. Firing James Comey, the F.B.I. director, may have been wise or unwise, but it should not in conscience be stretched to accuse a sitting president of criminal conduct. Nor should the mere expression of hope that Mr. Comey would go easy on Mr. Trump’s embattled national security adviser, Michael Flynn, somehow be transmogrified into a violation of federal law. To do so would flout first principles in our constitutional order of separated powers. Holding the president accountable for the exercise of his powers under Article II of the Constitution is a task entrusted to Congress, not to a largely unaccountable special counsel.

Fairly reviewed, the Barr memorandum is a dispassionate analysis that provides an important perspective to the senior leadership of the Justice Department. Indeed, it bears emphasis that the memorandum also went to Steve Engel, the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides the president legal advice. This is the same office that has issued formal opinions in both Republican and Democratic administrations saying that a president cannot be indicted while in office.

Mr. Barr makes clear throughout the memorandum that he does not know all the underlying facts and appropriately qualifies his analysis with repeated “it appears” and “apparently.” Those caveats are highly relevant as the Senate deliberates his nomination. They demonstrate the vital quality of a careful lawyer’s open-mindedness, which has been vividly on display in recent days, when Mr. Barr has pledged to protect the independence of the Mueller probe.

“It is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,” Mr. Barr told the Judiciary Committee. “I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to finish.”

Once Mr. Barr is confirmed, the Justice Department’s ethics officers will carefully review whether he should be allowed to oversee the Mueller probe. In light of what we know, I see no reason he should step aside. Expressing his legal perspective on a legal theory of obstruction of justice should not come close to justifying the extraordinary action of requiring him to recuse himself from what will be one of the new attorney general’s most pressing responsibilities.

The constitutionally ordained process of advise and consent should now be allowed to unfold. I am confident that Bill Barr will respond to all questions and concerns in a fair and honest way. I am also confident that he will be deeply respectful — as a matter of honor and integrity — of whatever advice he receives from the Justice Department’s ethics officers. Based on his long record of distinguished service, the American people can count on him to do the right thing.

Kenneth W. Starr is a former president and chancellor of Baylor University and a former solicitor general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

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Opinion | Democrats in Albany Let the Good Times Roll

Democrats in Albany had something altogether new and unfamiliar to warm them in bitter chill that marks the start of the legislative season: power.

In November, the party won real control of the State Senate for the first time in more than a half-century. This week, Democratic senators — along with colleagues who have long controlled the Assembly — began plowing ahead with reforms that Republicans have blocked for years.

On Monday, the Legislature updated archaic election laws by approving bills to enact early voting, to mandate that primary elections for state and federal offices be held on the same day, and to let 16- and 17-year-olds preregister to vote.

Hours later, they closed a loophole that let shell businesses called limited liability companies avoid limits on corporate donations by treating them like individuals. This long-overdue measure should help curb the influence of dark money, particularly from real estate interests, in politics.

Finally, the lawmakers went home, with Democrats, some seeming slightly dazed, posting celebratory Tweets about their sudden good fortune.

The next day brought more action. On Tuesday, by passing more legislation years in the making, the state hate crime law was revised to include protections for transgender individuals. Conversion therapy was banned, signaling an end to a bogus technique that purports to make gay people straight but ruins lives instead.

Encouragingly, some Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues to support some of these measures.

Not too shabby for their first two days in business.

After years in the political wilderness, the state’s Democratic lawmakers are letting the good times roll. Their leading bon vivant is Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the newly minted majority leader who has seemed to relish every minute.

At a news conference on Monday, Ms. Stewart-Cousins thanked those around her and then, in a plea she made countless times while in the minority, urged Senate Republicans to begin consideration of Democratic proposals.

Slight pause. Sly grin. “I’m just kidding!” she said.

The members of her caucus cracked up, releasing years of frustration, their heads swinging back with joyous laughter. Ms. Stewart Cousins threw up her hands like a champion, clapped and shouted, Yay!

These heady times at the Capitol have some of New York’s liberals pinching themselves. Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a reform group, said she was recovering from shock after watching Democrats in the first hours of the new legislative session enact voting reforms that had been stymied for years. “It’s whiplash,” Ms. Lerner said. “Is there more to do? Yes. But today, we’re celebrating.”

On an Amtrak train taking chattering lobbyists, aides, journalists and lawmakers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s annual budget address on Tuesday, the progressives on board were giddy, a strange feeling for them on a trip to Albany in January.

“I’m jazzed,” said the New York Civil Liberties Union’s executive president Donna Lieberman. She joked that in previous years she’d often felt like she needed to take a shower after spending time in the State Capitol.

Less jazzed were Senate Republicans, who after decades of nearly uninterrupted power, now seemed vaguely lost. On Tuesday, for example, they suggested that if marijuana must be legalized, any revenue should go to a tax cut. Good luck with that.

For some Republican lawmakers, a vote for a bill that would treat violence against transgender individuals as the hate crime that it is seemed particularly hard to take. From their seats in the back of the room, a couple of the Republicans rolled their eyes and snickered.

At one point, State SenatorJessica Ramos, one of six members who won primaries against turncoat Democrats who had caucused with Republicans, said lawmakers should go even further to help transgender New Yorkers, leading State Senator Frederick Akshar, a Republican, to exclaim, “Jesus Christ! Further?”

Even for Democrats though, it hasn’t been all fun and reforms.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie marred an otherwise banner start to the new year by engaging in a legal maneuver to try to keep a $50,500 pay raise for lawmakers while eliminating limits on outside income set by a special committee that enacted the raise. No doubt he has better ways to spend his time.

In the months ahead, bigger battles loom, like approving a congestion pricing measure to pay for an overhaul of the New York City subway, which could prove to be one of the toughest political fights in the state this year, and the most important.

Many of the greatest challenges and opportunities will lie with Governor Cuomo, who is likely to sign the measures. In unveiling a $175 billion budget proposal on Tuesday, he presented an ambitious agenda but little in the way of details.

For years many felt the governor might be more comfortable with a divided Legislature that he could blame for failing to enact legislation that some voters might find controversial.

But on Tuesday he said Democratic control of the State Senate left him feeling the state had been “liberated.” He suggested it would help deliver much-needed change for New York.

Your move, governor.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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Brexit, El Chapo, Nairobi: Your Wednesday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning,

We start with the fallout from the Brexit deal’s defeat in Parliament, the shutdown’s effect on federal workers’ finances, and an update from El Chapo’s trial.

Brexit deal’s failure adds to uncertainty in Britain

Parliament will debate a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May today, after lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected her plan to withdraw the country from the European Union. The no-confidence measure is expected to fail, but it doesn’t help a growing sense of political chaos 10 weeks before the country is scheduled to leave the bloc.

The 432-to-202 vote on Tuesday was the biggest defeat in the House of Commons for a prime minister in modern history. Here are the key takeaways.

What’s next: Mrs. May has until Monday to present a backup plan, but European Union officials had said the deal that Parliament rejected was the only one they would accept. We outline the possible outcomes, including a second referendum or a chaotic “no-deal” exit.

News analysis: Much of Mrs. May’s Conservative Party voted against the deal. Her struggle may signal the end of Britain’s “elective dictatorship” and the start of a gridlock-prone system.

Catch up: What is Brexit, and what does it all mean?

Shutdown’s toll grows

The Trump administration said it would summon tens of thousands of federal employees back to work without pay, the latest sign that officials don’t expect the partial government shutdown to end anytime soon.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, have refused to negotiate over border security until the government reopens, but President Trump has ruled out separating the issues.

The impact: The economic damage from the shutdown is far greater than what had been estimated, the White House said on Tuesday. Mr. Trump’s economists have doubled projections of how much growth is being lost each week.

By the numbers: Federal workers have missed, on average, more than $5,000 in wages so far. With 800,000 employees currently furloughed or working without pay, that’s more than $200 million every workday.

William Barr makes a promise to senators

The attorney general nominee said at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would permit the special counsel to complete the Russia investigation. He also said he was determined to resist any pressure from President Trump to use law enforcement for political purposes.

Mr. Trump repeatedly excoriated Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Hearings for Mr. Barr, whose confirmation seems virtually assured, resume this morning.

The Daily: In today’s episode, we discuss Tuesday’s hearing.

Another angle: The unusually secretive way Mr. Trump has handled his meetings with the Russian president has left even members of his administration guessing what happened.

A stunning accusation at El Chapo’s trial

The former president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, once accepted a $100 million bribe from Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, a witness at Mr. Guzman’s trial said on Tuesday.

The witness, Alex Cifuentes Villa, is a Colombian drug lord who worked closely with Mr. Guzmán from 2007 to 2013. If true, his testimony would suggest that corruption by drug cartels reached the highest level of Mexico’s government. Mr. Peña Nieto could not be reached for comment.

What’s next: Mr. Guzmán’s name has been submitted as a potential witness for the defense, meaning he could testify at his own trial.

Background: Mr. Guzmán, a longtime leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, is accused of shipping more than 200 tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. from the 1980s to 2016.

If you have 12 minutes, this is worth it

When a glacier melts

The Tuyuksu glacier in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan has been studied for decades by scientists who are trying to gauge the impact of climate change on the world’s ice. Last summer, our reporters saw it “melting like mad,” but the accumulating snow in winter hasn’t made up the difference.

The repercussions are wide-ranging, and what’s happening in the mountains of Kazakhstan is occurring all over the world.

Here’s what else is happening

Citizenship question is rejected: A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census. The case will most likely reach the Supreme Court.

Deadly attack in Nairobi: The death toll rose to 14 in a terrorist attack by Shabab militants who stormed a hotel and office complex in Kenya’s capital on Tuesday.

More pressure on Iowa congressman: The House voted to reject white nationalism and white supremacy as “hateful expressions of intolerance,” in a measure aimed at Representative Steve King. His fellow Republicans have faced pressure for not censuring him sooner.

Growing 2020 field: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York became the latest Democrat to enter the presidential race.

Snapshot: Above, two male penguins in Australia are raising a chick together, capturing the hearts of a nation where same-sex marriage became legal barely a year ago. “Love is love,” said a manager at the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium.

In memoriam: Carol Channing, a Broadway star known for her performances in “Hello, Dolly!” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” died on Tuesday at 97. Read her obituary and an appraisal by one of our theater critics, who says Ms. Channing was one of the reasons he was drawn to New York.

Late-night comedy: “Hamberders” at the White House? The comedy hosts were ready.

What we’re reading: “The Real Roots of American Rage” in The Atlantic. “Drawing on history, current events and social science, Charles Duhigg makes the case that anger is innate and can at times actually be useful,” writes David Gelles, our Corner Office columnist. “What’s worrisome, however, is that today anger is being monetized by the media, and weaponized by political parties.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Kimchi and mozzarella offer a spicy twist on the classic grilled cheese.

Go: New York City Ballet’s winter season opens Tuesday with new leads in George Balanchine’s “Apollo.” Our critic explores the title role, widely interpreted as the choreographer’s most autobiographical.

Watch: “The Heiresses,” the debut feature by the director Marcelo Martinessi, is a Times Critic’s Pick for its “clearsighted sensitivity.”

Listen: Want to feel old? On the track “22,” the trio Pottymouth bemoans with a galloping punk-rock beat moving through their early 20s.

Smarter Living: Driving on snow should be like walking on ice: slow and careful. Don’t mash the pedals, even if you have all-season tires. And keep in mind that the warmer the air, the slicker the snow. When air temperatures hit 30 degrees Fahrenheit, packed snow is about five times more slick than it is at zero degrees.

We also have ideas for the gear you’ll need in 2019.

And now for the Back Story on …

Cultivating a taste for potatoes

By some estimates, China’s population of 1.4 billion is nearing its peak. To feed that many people, while trying to use less land and water, the government is appealing to taste buds.

For several years, official policy has aimed to make potatoes a culinary staple, alongside rice, wheat and corn.

Potatoes can tolerate cold, drought and poor soil, and they need less water, fertilizer, pesticide and labor than other staples. Since the 1990s, China has outstripped all other countries in production.

Potatoes are hardly new to China. They were introduced about 400 years ago, and feature in beloved regional dishes like the shredded Sichuan specialty tudousi.

But for starch, the Chinese prefer rice and noodles.

One workaround is to process the tubers into potato flour, which is then mixed with wheat flour to make steamed bread, noodles or cakes. The government also promotes regional potato dishes, and supports the production of fries and potato chips.

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

— Chris

Thank you
To Inyoung Kang, who helped compile today’s briefing, to Eleanor Stanford for the cultural ideas, and to James K. Williamson for the Smarter Living tips. Claire Fu (付欣怡), a news researcher in our Beijing bureau, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about William Barr’s confirmation hearing.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle, and a clue: Short greeting (2 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• NYT Cooking, a subscription service of The New York Times, has more than 18,000 recipes, about 2,000 of which call for potatoes.

Chris Stanford is based in London and writes the U.S. version of the Morning Briefing. He also compiles a weekly news quiz. He was previously a producer for the desktop home page and mobile site, helping to present The New York Times’s news report to readers. Before joining The Times in 2013, he was an editor and designer at The Washington Post and other news organizations. @stanfordc

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South Korea's Mirae Asset, Naver to invest in Indonesia's Bukalapak

SEOUL (Reuters) – A fund led by South Korea’s Mirae Asset Daewoo (006800.KS) and web portal Naver Corp (035420.KS) will invest $50 million in Indonesian e-commerce startup Bukalapak, Mirae Asset said on Wednesday.

The Asia Growth Fund jointly set up by Mirae Asset and Naver Corp is seeking exposure in the fast-growing online commerce industry in the Southeast Asian country.

Surging smartphone use and a rising middle-class income in Indonesia, home to 260 million people, have made its e-commerce industry a battleground for foreign investors.

Spending in the Indonesian e-commerce market is projected by consultancy McKinsey to reach as much as $65 billion by 2022 from $8 billion in 2017.

“Naver is very strong in technology, so there is a lot we can learn from them,” Teddy Oetomo, chief strategy officer at Bukalapak, said by telephone.

Bukalapak expects to break even in three years, as it adds new product segments and expands coverage in small towns, Oetomo previously told Reuters.

The company, which counts Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte and China’s Ant Financial among its investors, became a unicorn – or a firm valued at $1 billion or above without tapping the public market – after its last fundraising round in late 2017.

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