Wealth Tax, Capitol Hill, Watermelon Season: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The 25 richest Americans paid relatively little — and sometimes nothing — in federal income taxes for years, according to I.R.S. filings obtained by ProPublica.

The news organization’s analysis showed that the top billionaires paid just $13.6 billion in federal income taxes on $401 billion of their wealth, much of which isn’t considered taxable income unless those assets are sold and a gain is realized. Even then, there are loopholes that can limit tax liability. In 2011, as Jeff Bezos’ wealth swelled to $18 billion, he was able to claim a tax credit of $4,000 for his children. Read the full ProPublica story here.

The report comes as President Biden is trying to overhaul the tax code so that corporations and the rich pay more. Biden has proposed raising the top marginal income tax rate, but the documents could renew calls for a wealth tax, which he has deemed unworkable.

Administration officials said that federal authorities were investigating the disclosure of private tax information, which can constitute a criminal offense.

2. A new Senate report offers the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of the security failings in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

The 127-page report found that U.S. intelligence agencies failed to warn law enforcement that pro-Trump extremists were threatening to “storm the Capitol.” An F.B.I. memo on Jan. 5 warning of people traveling to Washington for “war” never made its way to top law enforcement officials, and the Capitol Police failed to widely circulate information it collected as early as December about the threat.

“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post said. “Bring guns. It’s now or never,” said another.


3. Organized crime figures around the world trusted their phones’ security so much that they planned jobs without using coded language. But, unbeknown to them, they’d bought the devices from the F.B.I.

Global law enforcement officials revealed the unprecedented scope of a three-year sting operation in which they intercepted over 20 million messages in 45 languages. At least 800 people were arrested in more than a dozen countries. Using the messages, U.S. court papers say, the authorities have opened a barrage of international investigations into drug trafficking, money laundering and “high-level public corruption.”

Separately, the wife of the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo is set to plead guilty to charges of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar empire, as well as aiding his escape from a high-security Mexican prison, according to a person familiar with the case.

4. College subsidies for children and spouses. Knives for aspiring culinary workers. Appetizers for anyone willing to sit down for a restaurant job interview.

In a rush to staff up, companies are going beyond traditional monetary rewards to attract and retain workers. Despite an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent in May, the sudden reopening of much of the economy has left companies scrambling for workers. Job openings hit a record in April, the Labor Department said.

Meanwhile, our tech columnist bids farewell to the golden era of what he calls the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy: The price for Ubers, scooters and Airbnb rentals is going up as tech companies aim for profitability.


5. As inflation worries circle the globe, Beijing is moving swiftly to protect its factories and workplaces from rising costs.

Its tools include subsidies for small businesses to pay for commodities and limits on commodities trading to rein in speculation. For now, Chinese manufacturers, rather than consumers, are feeling the price increases, and the measures may just slow the rise instead of stopping it.

Those costs can already be felt throughout the world. Prices are up in the U.S. and elsewhere for soybeans, napkins and other products, prompting warnings that inflation could threaten the global economy. New trade data suggests the outlook for the U.S. economy will depend in part on the rate of recovery of other nations.


6. Millions of Americans may be moving toward normalcy, but for many Asian Americans, reopening is not an option.

A surge in anti-Asian attacks during the pandemic is now holding back many families from joining the rest of the country in getting back to normal. Some are avoiding subways and public transportation. Others are staying away from restaurants. Some dread the return of in-person work. Many have echoed the same worry: There is no vaccine against bigotry.

In other coronavirus news:


7. Protection Island, Wash. Population of one — and a whole lot of birds.

In the early 1980s, Marty Bluewater fought to keep his home among the nesting birds of Protection Island as environmental groups fought to protect the land. They eventually came to an agreement, and Bluewater has been the lone human resident on Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge for decades.

Now he’s fighting for the birds. Eagles, which rebounded from low numbers, have become a threat to the seabirds. “You can’t let the eagles destroy this priceless seabird sanctuary,” Bluewater said. “That’s what I can hopefully dedicate some of my last few years to.”


8. Do you see pictures in your head? Many people have a vivid “mind’s eye,” while others have none at all.

A team of British scientists estimate that tens of millions of people cannot conjure images, which they’ve named aphantasia, and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery, called hyperphantasia. Researchers are gathering clues about how these two conditions arise through changes in the wiring of the brain that join the visual centers to other regions and senses, including sound.

For those used to seeing things with their mind’s eye, aphantasia might seem debilitating. But the research suggests advantages for those with the condition. “Anecdotally, they’re really good at moving on,” Dr. Adam Zeman, the lead researcher, said.


9. “I don’t believe in seedless watermelon — that is against my religion.”

Watermelon is a staple during American summer. For many Black Americans, it’s a must for Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday that commemorates when enslaved Africans in Texas learned of their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

10. And finally, take in the seaside, Impressionist style.

You know Monet, Renoir, Degas and Pissarro. But Berthe Morisot, the lone female painter from the 1874 exhibition that gave the style its name, may be the most underestimated of the group. Our critic Jason Farago unpacks “In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight),” which she painted in 1875 while she and Eugène were taking a seaside honeymoon.

It’s a very rare thing in art history before the 20th century: a painting of an artist’s husband. But it’s more than that, Farago writes: “It’s a scrambled, unstable picture, which is all about how we look — at women, at landscapes, at other pictures.” Look closely and you’ll see how Morisot paints the view as a new stage of modern life.

Have a vivid night.


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