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Today: A Trade and Truth Deficit

Today: A Trade and Truth Deficit
President Trump speaks to supporters March 2 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

President Trump hasn’t been living up to a number of his biggest campaign promises, including reducing the trade deficit, but that hasn’t stopped him from boasting about them, much to his supporters’ approval.

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A Trade and Truth Deficit

President Trump has long talked about reducing the trade deficit as something that will help “make America great again,” even though mainstream economists widely believe that Trump’s emphasis on the trade balance is misplaced. Nevertheless, the gap in imported and exported goods soared to an all-time high last year, largely because of Trump’s policies. And it’s just one area where Trump is falling short of his own goals, such as his still-unbuilt wall on the border with Mexico and the collapse of a summit last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. As this analysis shows, that facts haven’t stopped Trump from boasting about his record over and over again with exaggerations and outright untruths. But will he pay a political price among his supporters? Probably not. As Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, put it: “Maybe 50% of Americans look at Donald Trump as struggling to accomplish things, but the other 50% looks at him as willing to take on challenges other presidents weren’t.”

More Politics

-- The White House has moved a veteran staff attorney to a press office that is preparing a response to the much-anticipated final report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The White House counsel’s office has also made at least 17 new hires.

-- A decision by House Democratic leaders to hold a vote on an anti-Semitism resolution that indirectly rebukes one of their own members, Ilhan Omar, has drawn the ire of her allies. It threatens to open a generational rift in the party.

-- Congressional Democrats are launching an investigation into the fate of NASA’s offer to fly a pollution-analyzing jet over the Houston region in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The investigation was spurred by a Los Angeles Times report this week.

-- The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of revelations in the New Yorker detailing the cable network's close ties to the Trump administration.

A New Timeline Emerges on a Sheriff’s Deputy

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva began pushing to rehire a deputy fired over domestic abuse allegations weeks before a panel that he created reviewed the case and made its recommendation, according to documents reviewed by The Times. The records have sparked new questions about how the department handled the case, whether Villanueva exceeded his authority and exactly how the sheriff's "truth and reconciliation" committee is supposed to work.

A Homeless Rights Case Is Settled

When the Los Angeles City Council adopted an ordinance in 2016 limiting homeless people’s belongings to what would fit in a 60-gallon bag, it wasn’t long before a lawsuit was filed and a judge put restrictions on the city’s ability to seize and destroy property on skid row. Now, the council has authorized the city attorney to settle with the civil rights lawyers who brought the suit — much to the objection of nearby business owners and others.

Work Now, Get Paid a Lot Later

While a lot has been written about underfunded pension liabilities for public employees, there’s another area of worry that’s received less attention: vacation accrual payouts. Because of lax enforcement of the cap on the amount of time off that can be banked, more and more state workers are able to retire with massive payouts for unused vacation and other leave. How much of a potential hit to the state budget is this? According to the last estimate for 2017, $3.5 billion.

The Perils and Pleasures of Iraqi Desert Truffles

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Would you risk your life for a truffle? That’s what truffle hunters do in the Iraqi desert, where land mines, members of Islamic State and overzealous guards on the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border can all pose threats. But for those willing to risk it, there’s a payoff — in money and culinary delights. Even if they end up with sand in their teeth.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1965, Alabama state troopers violently broke up a voting-rights march in Selma. The incident would become known as “Bloody Sunday” and would help lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act. In the image below, foreground right, John Lewis, then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and present-day congressman, is shown being beaten by a trooper. In the days that immediately followed, protests broke out across the United States. Here’s what happened in Los Angeles.

March 7, 1965: Alabama state troopers use clubs against participants of a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala.
March 7, 1965: Alabama state troopers use clubs against participants of a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala. (Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

-- A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked a Trump administration move to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, calling the proposal “arbitrary and capricious” and saying it would harm the state.

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-- The direction of the L.A. school board could be changing again. Jackie Goldberg, who has the backing of the teachers union, will enter a runoff election for a pivotal seat with enormous momentum.

-- L.A. County sheriff’s investigators are looking for the public’s help in solving the mystery of a girl whose body was found along a trail in Hacienda Heights.

-- Don’t try this at home: Here’s how a Santa Barbara County fire spokesman got some dramatic pictures of lightning during the latest storm to hit Southern California.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- What to make of the new “Captain Marvel” movie starring Brie Larson? Critic Kenneth Turan says it’s surprisingly good.

-- R&B singer R. Kelly was taken into custody during a hearing in Chicago and won't be released from jail until he pays $161,000 in back child support. In an explosive TV interview before then, he had denied sexual abuse allegations against him.

-- “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek says he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is vowing to fight it.

-- A look at why Luke Perry’s death is so personal for many forgotten Gen Xers.

NATION-WORLD

-- Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, says that she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force.

-- Two patients with HIV are in remission. How many more will follow them?

-- Veasna Meth was deported to Cambodia in 2014 for a crime he committed as a teen. Now, after a key Supreme Court ruling last year, the 30-year-old is back home in California.

-- Experts in Mexico say that only 22 vaquitas, the most endangered porpoise in the world, remain in the Gulf of California.

-- In Peru, anthropologists have found evidence of an ancient mass ritual killing that involved the deaths of more than 140 children, three adults and at least 200 young llamas.

BUSINESS

-- AT&T-owned WarnerMedia is investigating salacious allegations that the head of its Warner Bros. movie and TV studio engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a young actress who demanded that she be cast in the company’s movies.

-- Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has announced sweeping changes to his company’s services, saying he’ll spend the next several years reorienting the social media giant’s apps toward encryption and privacy.

SPORTS

-- The deaths of 21 horses at Santa Anita since Dec. 26 remain a mystery. Racing and track officials are waiting for additional testing on the course surfaces, which has not started because of the rain.

-- LeBron James has passed Michael Jordan for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

OPINION

-- Trump’s harsh immigration tactics aren't working. Migrant crossings are soaring, and a wall isn’t the answer.

-- All those scooters everywhere? That’s a good thing, as long as they’re safe, responsible and convenient.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- A secret database: Leaked documents show the U.S. government tracking journalists and immigration advocates. (NBC San Diego)

-- “Text me when you get home.” We shouldn’t have to say it. But we do. (Boston Globe)

-- Are clichés really such a bad thing? Think outside the box. (Aeon)

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ONLY IN L.A.

Here’s the scoop on one of “Captain Marvel’s” biggest stars: “He’s snack-oriented. You give him something to eat; you talk softly and nice to him; give him something to eat again. It works out.” Though that could describe a lot of people, in this case, it’s a cat named Reggie who plays the character of Goose in the superhero film. Reggie was on hand for the movie’s media day in L.A. and engaged with reporter Tracy Brown on some questions about working opposite Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson. As for giving away spoilers, he didn’t let the cat out of the bag.

If you like this newsletter, please share it with friends. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.

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