As trade talks loom, Chinese firms look into buying U.S. farm goods

Chinese companies have started to inquire about prices for U.S. agricultural goods purchases, Beijing said on Thursday, in a further sign of potential de-escalation in the bitter and protracted trade war between the world's two largest economies.
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The Great Liberal Reckoning Has Begun
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ends an incredible legal career, one that advanced gender equality and inspired millions. RBG, as she became popularly known, was, like Thurgood Marshall before her, one of the handful of justices who, through their work as lawyers fighting for justice, can truly be said to have earned their spot on the judicial throne. But the outpouring of grief that has followed her death is not just for the passing of a revered figure in American law but also for the end of an important force in American society: the liberal faith in the Supreme Court.[Read: What Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death means for America]This faith is more recent than many people recognize. A century ago, the biggest critics of the federal judiciary were on the left, and for good reason. For most of its history, the Supreme Court was the most conservative of the three branches of government, consistently blocking, or at least delaying, efforts at social, political, and economic reform. From Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Court upheld the subordination of racial minorities, to Lochner, which denied the government the ability to regulate much of economic life, the Court epitomized what William F. Buckley would later identify as the conservative credo: the impulse to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop.” By the Progressive Era and the Great Depression, it was widely held that the Supreme Court could only hinder, not help, the cause of reform.But then, for a few decades, everything changed. The fundamental reason was politics: Over his 12-year presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed a record eight new justices, nearly an entire Supreme Court’s worth, two of whom—the liberal icons Hugo Black and William O. Douglas—served into the 1970s. The context changed as well: The federal government’s massive expansion during the New Deal and World War II transformed both elite and popular understandings of the Constitution. This change was so profound that Dwight Eisenhower, the first Republican president elected after FDR, appointed the two justices, Earl Warren and William Brennan, who would later lead the Court to its liberal zenith. These were the decades of Brown v. Board of Education, of the removal of religion from public schools, of the expansion of free speech and the rights of criminal defendants. In these decades the Court was a true partner in the political branches’ attempt to move the country forward.Richard Nixon began the Supreme Court’s shift back to the right, appointing conservatives like Warren Burger, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist. Liberals still won a few important victories—most notably 1973’s Roe v. Wade—but since 1969 Republican presidents have appointed 14 justices. Democrats have appointed only four. The past half century of American constitutional law is defined, more than anything else, by this simple fact.From today’s vantage point the fragility of the mid-century liberal judicial victories is abundantly clear. The Supreme Court repeatedly retreated from its promise of sweeping change. Brown repudiated the notorious “separate but equal” doctrine that justified Jim Crow segregation, but when, a year later, the Court was asked to enforce its initial ruling, it meekly held that southern states should desegregate public schools “with all deliberate speed.” Determined southern officials ran circles around cautious federal courts, and desegregation did not begin in earnest until the passage of federal civil-rights legislation in the mid-1960s. This story has played out over and over again. Criminal procedure has become steadily less friendly to criminal defendants over the past 50 years. And Roe’s strict limits on government regulation of abortion were replaced by Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s far laxer “undue burden” test, under which abortion rights have weakened to such an extent that many scholars view Roe as having already been essentially overruled.[Elizabeth Wade: My abortion before Roe v. Wade]While the Supreme Court was under-delivering on its promises, liberal elites were devoting much of their intellectual and emotional resources to the Court, hoping against hope that an appeal to the swing justice will eke out a 5–4 victory for this or that liberal cause. Lawyers and scholars spent a decade trying to bring Anthony Kennedy into the fold, citing his landmark rulings on gay rights and wartime civil liberties as evidence of an imminent conversion to the liberal cause. Yet all the while, Kennedy kept adding to his deeply conservative voting record, a legacy he made sure to preserve by retiring in 2018, thereby allowing a Republican to appoint his successor. Lately focus has turned to John Roberts, in the hope that his commitment to the Supreme Court as an institution will moderate his otherwise-conservative legal positions. And while Roberts, like Kennedy before him, has occasionally voted with the liberals—such as in upholding the Affordable Care Act and ruling against the Trump administration in several important cases last term—the Court’s march to the right continues.The choice to focus on courts has had its most fateful results with abortion, in which the lion’s share of liberal organizational energy has gone into desperate, rear-guard defenses of judicially granted abortion rights. Despite the work of groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, anti-abortion-rights advocates have captured statehouses in red states and many purple ones, with one-third of the more than 1,000 abortion restrictions since Roe passed in just the past decade. Roe failed to create a durable political consensus in favor of abortion rights, as occurred over the same period in Western Europe, where abortion rights were secured by legislatures rather than courts. This failure has been one of the key criticisms of Roe from pro-choice advocates, and RBG herself criticized Roe’s sweeping reach on these grounds in a 1985 essay, noting, “The political process was moving in the early 1970s, not swiftly enough for advocates of quick, complete change, but majoritarian institutions were listening and acting. Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”If the Supreme Court has proved itself, time and time again, to be unwilling or incapable of advancing the liberal conception of justice, why have so many liberals, for so long, let themselves be victims of judicial gaslighting? Part of it is that the Warren and early Burger Courts painted a vivid, alluring picture of what justice by judiciary could look like. And even if liberals understood, deep down, that those two decades were an aberration in American legal history, the Court has given them just enough victories since then to keep the dream alive. For lawyers and law professors, there is also the simple matter of professional vanity: If the Supreme Court is the vanguard of American justice, then judges, and thus the lawyers who argue before them and the scholars who analyze (and, when necessary, chastise) them, are the nation’s most important profession—the priests and elders of the civic religion that is American constitutionalism.[Leah Litman: Progressives’ Supreme Court victories will be fleeting]Fundamentally, though, many liberals loved the Supreme Court for the same reason they loved the law: a vision of universal harmony and justice brought about by reason and persuasion, not the brute forces of political power. Victory in the political arena is always incomplete and uncertain, not to mention grubby. Politics appeals to our baser instincts of greed and fear and competition—which, of course, is why it is so powerful. By contrast, law—whether through “neutral principles” or “reasoned elaboration” or elaborate moral theories, to name a few of the core organizing ideas of 20th-century legal theory—holds out the promise of something objective, something True. To win in the court of the Constitution is to have one’s view enshrined as just, not only for today but with the promise of all time.But eventually liberals lost faith that the Court would interpret the Constitution in their favor. What started as a trickle of disillusionment grew throughout the 1980s and ’90s and became a torrent when Roberts became chief justice in 2005 and led the conservative wing to undermine a number of liberal legal priorities, from gun control to campaign-finance law to voting rights. Although many liberal lawyers still dutifully fight in federal court to protect rights where they can, they do so with the increasing understanding that they are simply delaying the inevitable. And legal scholars have gradually given up on the Court as a guarantor of constitutional values, advancing theories of popular constitutionalism or progressive federalism to serve as a counterweight to the Court’s conservative transformation. Whatever was left of the Court’s sacred aura as above partisan politics was ripped away by Mitch McConnell’s denial of a vote to Merrick Garland in 2016 and the bitterness of the confirmation hearings over Brett Kavanaugh two years later.The clearest sign that many liberals are giving up their remaining idealism about the Court is that, for many moderate Democrats (not to mention those on the progressive left), court packing has gone from a fringe theory to not just a viable option but a moral imperative if Joe Biden wins in November and the Democrats take back the Senate. Court packing is straightforwardly constitutional—the Court’s size fluctuated before the Civil War, and its current composition of nine justices is set by statute. But adding justices in retribution for the perfidy of Senate Republicans would require taking a wholly instrumental view of the Court—just another veto point in America’s groaning vetocracy, a super-legislature subject to the same politics as Congress or the White House. It’s a truth that many historians and political scientists have understood for a long time but that many lawyers are only beginning to accept. And it’s a hard, disenchanting truth.The end of the liberal love of the courts will not, of course, be the end of liberals’ fight over them. Liberals will continue to work to get their judges on the Supreme Court and the lower courts. They will champion court decisions that go their way and will explore limiting the judiciary’s powers when it rules against them. Liberals will, in short, act more like conservatives, whose disillusionment with the mid-century Court freed them to view the judicial branch as an instrument of political power and to be unembarrassed by an explicit effort to staff it with the ideologically reliable, just as political parties choose their candidates. This realpolitik approach to judicial nominations is the reason for the Republican Party’s stunning success in reshaping the federal bench, and it is one that liberals will have no choice but to adopt themselves if they want to fight back.In time, liberals may yet win the battle over the federal courts, but any victory will be bittersweet, because in their hearts they will know that the lofty dream is dead. Law is no savior from politics; it is only a temporary reprieve from the struggle between powers over power. Battle is coming. The question is: Do liberals still remember how to fight? Because conservatives certainly do.
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It’s easier than ever to find out how your favorite websites are tracking you
Blacklight will show you which websites are sending your data to Facebook and other companies. | AFP/Getty Images Enter a website address and Blacklight will tell you which trackers it has, what they do, and who else is getting your data. If you’ve ever used the internet (which I have to assume includes everyone reading this article on a news website), you’ve probably noticed that the things you do on one website tend to follow you around on others, or that certain social media platforms know a whole lot more about you than you thought you revealed. Meanwhile, you likely have no idea who knows what about you, or how they got that information. Data collection is the backbone of the internet ecosystem, but it’s largely invisible to you, the average user, until you see its end result: an ad so uniquely targeted to you and your interests that you swear Facebook must be listening to your conversations through your phone (it probably isn’t). Several companies and organizations are trying to make that world a little less opaque to users like you. One of them is The Markup, a nonprofit investigative news site. It just released a tool called Blacklight, and it’s designed to present all of this information in a way that’s easy to understand. If you want to know how the ad technology that knows everything about you works, it’s a great place to start. If you just want to know who might find out that you visited a potentially embarrassing or deeply personal website before you go there, it’s good for that, too. There are a few similar tools — Apple’s newly released Safari 14 browser update, for example, will tell you which trackers are on a website you visit. But with Safari, you have to actually visit the site first, and its list of trackers doesn’t include context about which companies are associated with which trackers and what those companies do. For instance, Safari will tell you that Vox has a tracker called “,” but Blacklight will tell you is owned by Neustar, which specializes in “accurate targeting” based on a “wide range of attributes” gleaned from your behavior both on- and offline. And now that you know Neustar exists, you can make an informed decision to opt out of being tracked by it. Blacklight serves more as an information tool than something you’d use in real time as you browse the internet because you have to go to Blacklight’s site and enter your desired website address in the prompt. Blacklight then scans the site and tells you how many trackers are on it, what they do, and who they’re potentially sending your data to. Some of those names you might recognize, like Oracle and Verizon. Others you likely won’t, like LiveRamp or Criteo. But it’s safe to say that all of them know a lot about you. I tried Blacklight out for myself to see what websites might be telling those companies about me. Vox, the site you’re reading right now, is largely ad-supported. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blacklight found a lot of ad trackers (31) and third-party cookies (54) on it. Vox also uses Facebook’s Pixel and Google’s analytics trackers, which tell those platforms that your device visited Vox. Facebook and Google trackers in particular are very common on websites, and allow Facebook and Google to connect your behavior across all of those sites to your user profile on their platforms, giving them lots of data about you and your interests for ad targeting purposes. Vox is not unique in this regard. Its tracker load is comparable to what Blacklight found on other ad-supported national news sites, including Slate (38 trackers, 6 cookies, Facebook), Mashable (24 trackers, 33 cookies, Facebook and Google), and Politico (33 trackers, 60 cookies, Facebook). Some sites have more advanced tracking technology. On Breitbart, for example, Blacklight found 26 trackers, 15 cookies, Facebook and Google trackers, as well as a script that enables what’s called “canvas fingerprinting,” which can be used to track you even if you block cookies. Time magazine’s site has 14 trackers, 25 cookies, Facebook and Google trackers, and, Blacklight found, it uses a session recorder that can detect things like mouse cursor movements, clicks, keystrokes, and page scrolls while you browse the site. That might sound creepier than it actually is: Websites can use session trackers to get granular data about their visitors’ behavior on their site to improve how the site itself looks and works. But they can also watch a specific user’s interactions on their site and attach it to identifying information, if they have it, to make inferences about that user. (The Markup, which is a nonprofit and relies on donations rather than ads for support, doesn’t have any trackers.) Maybe you don’t care if a national news website knows what you’re looking at and when, but you might feel differently when it’s a site that deals with more sensitive information. On WebMD, Blacklight found 26 trackers, 31 cookies, and a Facebook tracker. A website for a medication for autoimmune diseases sent data to a variety of companies, including Facebook. A site that sells STD testing kits had 13 ad trackers, 25 cookies, Facebook and Google trackers, and a session recorder. Even if you trust those sites to respect and maintain your privacy, you’re also trusting the third parties they allow to collect your data on their website, and you’re trusting whatever companies those third parties might sell your data to. You also probably have no idea who those companies even are. The Markup pointed Recode to Airbnb and M&Ms’ websites as examples of major websites with potentially concerning tracking behavior. Blacklight found that Airbnb has canvas fingerprinting and logs the keystrokes you type in certain text fields. It also uses Facebook’s “advanced matching” feature, which can share data with Facebook even if you’ve blocked Facebook’s cookies. On M&Ms’ site, Blacklight found 31 trackers, 67 cookies, Facebook and Google trackers, a session recorder, and that it was logging keystrokes in the email and password fields. There may be legitimate reasons for these scripts; canvas fingerprinting is sometimes used to detect fraud, so it makes sense that it would be on a site like Airbnb. And the keystroke logger could be used to auto-complete the email and password fields, making logging into your M&Ms account easier. But it also means the site may be recording what you type in submission fields before you click the “submit” button. Either way, now you know it’s there. Blacklight says not to take its scan as the final word on the trackers a website does or doesn’t have — there may well be some that evade detection. It’s really more of a guide to help you make more informed decisions about your internet experience. So, now that you know how your favorite websites might be tracking you and which companies they might be sending your data to, what can you do to stop it? There are relatively simple ways to minimize the information websites can get about you, and they don’t require much technical know-how: Turn off ad personalization wherever possible. You can do this on Facebook, Google, and Twitter, for instance. Use a more privacy-conscious browser. You should specifically look for a browser that rejects third-party cookies, which are often used to track you online. Safari and Firefox browsers block third-party cookies by default, and both feature “privacy report” functions that list what they’ve blocked for you; you can find those by clicking on the little shield icon to the left of the browser bar. Google’s Chrome has a setting that will allow you to block third-party cookies, and the company says it will be blocking third-party cookies entirely by 2022. Add tracker blocking extensions to your browser. Privacy Badger, Ghostery, and DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Essentials are three good examples. They’ll tell you how many trackers they blocked and what they are. Ad blockers like uBlock Origin, AdBlock, and AdBlock Plus will also block trackers. These extensions may compromise the functionality of some websites, and keep in mind that you are blocking the ads that many of them rely on for income. These are just a start, and there is no foolproof way to prevent all tracking on the internet. Again, some of these trackers will help you use the site you’re on; others will help pay for its existence. The best thing you can do is be as aware as possible of what websites can know about you and who else might be watching. Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Term Limits Won’t Fix the Court
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday has prompted, once again, a wave of discussion about the idea of limiting the terms of Supreme Court justices. If only Ginsburg had been forced to retire years ago, the theory goes, the country would not be facing down the uncertainty of a confirmation fight in the midst of an already tumultuous election season. The hope, which first gained traction in modern times after Robert Bork’s failed nomination in 1987, is that by more regularly replacing longtime justices with newer ones, adding predictability to when those switches occur, the judicial-nomination process would become less divisive and disruptive. This is largely right—term limits could help restore confidence in the confirmation process and eliminate the morbid health watches we now have as justices age—but there are other problems they wouldn’t fix.During and after the Bork showdown, the Court was in a period of rapid turnover, with six new justices in eight years (1986 to 1994), and for a while term limits seemed to be beside the point. Then, after Stephen Breyer joined the bench in 1994 and no further vacancies arose for over a decade, the drumbeat for term limits grew.[Norm Ornstein: Why the Supreme Court needs term limits]The scholarship culminated in a proposal that the Northwestern University law professors Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in 2006. They argued for staggered 18-year terms, such that a vacancy would occur every two years, in nonelection years, giving each president two appointments per term. They also analyzed various possible outcomes of enacting such a reform by statute and found them wanting, and therefore recommended a constitutional amendment to achieve their goal.Of course, the idea for limited judicial tenures is hardly a new one; it was debated at the founding. Back then, the idea of lifetime appointments seemed the best way to establish an independent judiciary, insulating judges from the political forces that might endanger constitutional rights and liberties. But many now believe that the pendulum swung too far the other way, with a high court too reflective of past political fights and thus unresponsive to contemporary realities. Even if these critics are wrong, if public perception is that the justices are out-of-touch ideologues, that isn’t good for the Supreme Court as an institution or the American body politic more broadly. But if term limits were instituted, they would represent significant bipartisan consensus, given the difficulty of ratifying a constitutional amendment. That sort of consensus alone would indicate the resolution of many of the problems that term limits are being asked to remedy.This post is adapted from Shapiro’s new book.Still, the reasons for the growing public interest are clear. First, the average length of tenure has increased as a result of rising life expectancies, increased prestige of the job, and a reduction in the difficulties associated with service. Second, life tenure enables justices to time their retirement for political purposes, which takes away from the idea that the Court is detached from the partisan gamesmanship of Congress and the presidency. Third, the longer justices serve, the less accountable they become to democratic sentiments and the more independent they’re perceived to be from the cultural zeitgeist that inevitably informs the public’s response to the Court’s rulings. Finally, as Calabresi and Lindgren put it, “the irregular occurrence of vacancies on the Supreme Court means that when one does arise, the stakes are enormous,” and the brutal and often-drawn-out political combat that results affects the Court “directly, since it is deprived of one of its nine members, and indirectly, since rancorous confirmation battles lower the prestige of the Court.”Calabresi and Lindgren argued that their proposal would address these and other concerns. First, 18-year terms would reduce the post-1970 average tenure of more than 25 years. Second, if presidents continued to appoint justices in their mid-50s, ages at retirement would drop, thus lowering the risk of mental or physical decrepitude. Third, the proposal would solve the problem of “hot spots”: Irregular vacancies are often clustered. Since Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed in 1981, each of the past six presidents has been limited to two appointment opportunities in consecutive years. If vacancies were set to occur once every two years, every president would be able to pick two justices each term, which would, as Calabresi and Lindgren put it, “reduce the stakes of the nomination process and eliminate the uncertainty that now exists regarding when vacancies will occur,” making the Court “more democratically accountable and legitimate by providing for regular updating of the Court’s membership.” In other words, there would be a more direct connection between the will of the people and the direction of the Court.But there are real risks, and ways in which instituting staggered term limits could spectacularly backfire. Imagine a scenario in which a GOP-controlled Senate blocks a Democratic president’s 2025 and 2027 nominations. A Republican president is then elected in 2028 and the Senate confirms four nominees: in 2029 and 2031, to serve the regular 18-year terms, and for the two empty seats, with 14 and 16 years left on their terms, respectively. This could happen in every cycle of divided government, and would exacerbate, not lessen, the politicization of the confirmation process.[Richard L. Hasen: The Supreme Court may no longer have the legitimacy to resolve a disputed election]What’s more, if these 18-year terms had been around for the past few decades, the Court’s makeup would hardly be different; there would now be three George W. Bush appointees, four Barack Obama appointees, and two Donald Trump appointees. In the past 50 years, there have been 30 years of Republican presidents and 20 years of Democratic ones; if anything, liberal voices have been overrepresented on the Court. In other words, term limits wouldn’t change the ideological composition of the Court over time. Nor, for that matter, would they address the fundamental power that each justice wields, which is the reason we see such ferocious political battles every time a vacancy occurs.There are also transition problems. Since term limits wouldn’t apply to sitting justices, for decades we would have term-limited justices serving alongside life-tenured ones. Moreover, it would take decades to get each seat’s 18-year term aligned with the others. Future vacancies wouldn’t arise in an orderly manner, so some transitional justice could serve five or 10 years before another one arrives. At a certain point, someone could end up “limited” to 20, 25, or even 35 years. Fixes could be put in place to prevent all this, but at some point the complications become more trouble than they’re worth.Could the Court weather accusations of illegitimacy and special-interest capture in these novel circumstances? And, as some commentators have indicated, 18 years is still a long time—more than the pre-1970 average tenure—so even with a biennial vacancy, the stakes would remain high, especially for those confirmation fights in which the Court’s balance is at stake.Even if term limits wouldn’t change the Court’s decision making, they might be worth trying anyway, because at least there would be less randomness about when vacancies arise. As the UC Berkeley law professor Orin Kerr put it, “If the Supreme Court is going to have an ideological direction—which, for better or worse, history suggests it will—it is better to have that direction hinge on a more democratically accountable basis than the health of one or two octogenarians.”The best argument for term limits is that they would make the Supreme Court more of a standard issue in presidential and Senate campaigns and thus less of a political football when the winners of those elections get to nominate and confirm justices.This post was adapted from Shapiro’s new book, Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court.
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The Echo Mountain Complex wildfire is 90 percent contained, according to emergency service officials.
Bryson DeChambeau's unique approach to the game of golf
Bryson DeChambeau has redefined the game of golf as we know it. The 27-year-old has taken science, geometry and physique to another level, and his titanic US Open victory provides absolute proof that there really is method in the supposed madness.
Age is just a number to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he leads AC Milan to victory
Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired AC Milan to a 2-0 victory over Bologna on Monday in its opening game of the new Serie A season.
Chicago's 'Dreadhead Cowboy' arrested after riding a horse on expressway: cops
A man on a horse, known as Chicago's "Dreadhead Cowboy" trotted down the Dan Ryan Expressway on Monday afternoon, as he slowed down traffic and offered an unusual sight for drivers during rush hour.
Redditors freak out over bride's mom allegedly wearing white dress
Very few expect to see the standout color on someone who isn’t the bride.
A University of Georgia student exposed pandemic violations. One fraternity responded with racist texts.
Lambda Chi Alpha is self-suspended indefinitely and the university's Equal Opportunity Office is also investigating the matter.
Danish TV Programme Promotes 'Body Positivity' by Showing Children Naked Adults
The Danish television programme Ultra Strips Down has come under fire for having adults parade their nude bodies in front of children, some as young as seven.