Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Cadillac CTS-V will make you love driving — and change your mind about Caddy

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Cadillac is General Motors’ luxury brand and has been for over 100 years – and it’s undergoing a major reinvention. Sales and marketing operations were moved to New York City in 2014 in order to make Caddy seem hip and fresh and of the global-luxury conversation.

But Cadillac has been in the throes of transformation for more than a decade. For much of its history, it sat at the peak of GM’s famous-brand ladder: You entered your automotive life with a Chevy and closed it with one. Back then, during the US auto industry’s golden age and even into its crisis years in the 1970s and ’80s, Cadillac produced big, comfortable cars that were designed to surround passengers in swaths of soft leather and ample ashtrays.

Taking one hard turn into a corner wasn’t something that entered any Cadillac owner’s mind, as he or she piloted the barge down a freeway with Sinatra flowing from the FM radio. The invasion of German sports sedans disrupted this settled arrangement. “Luxury” now had to include “performance.” And to up the ante, BMW in particular began to advance its “ultimate driving machine” pitch with street-legal competition-derived cars from its M Sport division. This was German performance – plus!

Even after Cadillac revolutionized its styling to be more aggressive, it had to tackle the impression that the Germans were better at going fast. This led to a synthesis of Cadillac and Corvette. Posh met performance, and “performance” was a big V8 engine with enough horsepower to make you think you’re not just driving – you’re being propelled forward at alarming velocity by a thick column of fire. The V-Series was born.

Caddy has been refining this formula for about a decade now, and Johan de Nysschen, the brand’s boss, stressed to Business Insider how important the V-cars are to the future of the the brand. “[They’re] very stunning and are exciting people around the brand,” he said. “They draw people into showrooms who would never consider Cadillac.”

A Caddy with the heart of a Corvette? Sounds pretty tasty, and maybe just a little bit rude. So we sampled the core of the V lineup: the 2016 CTS-V sedan.


The Caddy landed in my driveway at Business Insider car-test HQ. The “Red Obsession” paint brightened things up. Base price is about $85,000.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

I know the CTS-V doesn’t look anything like its ferocious GM stablemate, the Corvette Z06 supercar, which serves up 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque from the most powerful engine GM has built.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

But the Cadillac actually has … THE SAME ENGINE as the Vette, a 6.2-liter supercharged widow-maker. It’s just been toned down to crank out a mere 640 hp.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

It’s a monster motor, but it appears rather compact under the CTS-V’s hood.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The “V” cars are Caddy’s answer to high-performance versions of European sports sedans: BMW’s M Sports, Mercedes-AMGs, and the Audi RS. Our well-equipped test car was priced at about $92,000, about $10,000 over the base price.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Cadillac’s styling for these cars is aggressive. Jutting angles, razored cut-ins, bold scoops, and aerodynamics define the attitude.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

In fact, the legendary Cadillac shield is one of the few nods to tradition on the CTS-V. But even here, the wreath has been removed, leaving only a shield to anchor that snarling black grille. A Fleetwood Brougham freeway cruiser this is not.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Michael Bay would groove on these headlights.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

And any fan of arrogant, hot-rodding American muscle will dig this slatted hood scoop. That hood, by the way, is made of lightweight carbon fiber.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The theme is echoed closer to the ground. And yes, there’s barely room for a rattlesnake on the Zone diet to wiggle under that strip of wind-cheating technology. All this ventilation is functional, according the Caddy: It assists in cooling the engine for better track performance.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The “V” badging shows up here and there, …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… and the at-times yowling exhaust note is piped through a quartet of these babies.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Overall, the CTS-V is a successful translation of the Corvette Z06 into a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan — with four doors, a comfortable back seat, and …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… a nice, big trunk that makes the CTS-V a better choice for grocery runs than its supercar brother.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

But just because the CTS-V has 10 fewer horses under the hood than the Vette and is versatile enough to satisfy mundane suburban requirements for gathering provisions, that doesn’t mean it lacks angry bones beneath its shimmering chassis. This innocuous little button …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… enables the driver to access one of several driving modes, which can be tweaked in various ways. The appearance of the digital display changes slightly for each one. This is what you see when you’re in poke-around-town mode.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

This is sport mode. A little green checkered-flag icon appears, and the tachometer turns white.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

And here’s track mode — Caddy bills the CTS-V as track-ready. The green icon has transformed into a tiny oval. Those paddle shifters behind the steering wheel can be used to operate the CTS-V in automanual, which particularly in track mode enables you to make that big supercharged engine growl like Jimmy Page’s Les Paul on “Whole Lotta Love.”

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

It’s all tamed by an impeccable eight-speed transmission.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Driving the car is glorious. The Z06 requires constant attention, as I found out when I sampled it last year. The CTS-V, by contrast, is an insane beast when you want it to be, possessed of earth-splitting violence delivered via a 0-to-60 time of 3.6 seconds.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Hulking Brembo brakes keep all that velocity under control. Of course, you do have to be careful about potholes and speed bumps with that kind of minimal ground clearance.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The CTS-V can also be a perfectly docile roadway companion — when the claws are retracted. I wound up driving the Caddy on some of the same routes as the Z06, and the CTS-V was a mellower instrument — particularly when, for example, I was stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. But you aren’t going to get Prius-like MPGs from a 640-hp V8. The CTS-V manages 17 combined.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The Vette wants you to play AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and play it at Norse warrior demigod volumes, while this is more the CTS-V’s speed.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The cabin is soothing while also being sophisticated and sporty.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

The Recaro seats provide the right amount of support for enthusiastic driving without being too stiff for a daily commute, …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… and they’re heated, as well as ventilated.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

You’ve got the obligatory carbon-fiber highlights.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Compartments that slide open to reveal …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… cupholders!

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

A concealed inductive-charging system for mobile devices, …

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

… plus a branded cloth to polish everything.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

As with most GM vehicles, the CTS-V is enabled for CarPlay or Android Auto, and the infotainment system is solid — made that much better through the addition of 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. Cadillac also offers a performance data recorder that allows you to record and later study your driving.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

But you also have OnStar. A press of the blue button connects you with a human operator who can assist with navigation and various other vehicle functions.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Audio gets piped through a 13-speaker Bose audio system. It’s a solid performer, doing what Bose audio does best: provide you with access to a wide range of dynamic sounds without making you feel overloaded on thumping bass.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

Cadillac has been working on taking it to BMW’s M cars for some time now, and with the CTS-V … well, it may have taken it PAST the M’s. The CTS-V bears no resemblance to the Caddys of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and it has grabbed the sports-sedan concept and pushed it into new territory. You can now have your midlife crisis without embarrassing yourself.

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Matthew DeBord/Business Insider

STOCKS SLIP TO END THE YEAR: Here’s what you need to know

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A reveller drops down a slide during the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset, Britain June 23, 2016.
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Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

Stocks dipped in trading on Friday, the final trading day of 2016.

All three indexes ended the day in the red, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the losses.

We’ve got all the headlines, but first, the scoreboard:

    Dow: 19,762.60, -57.18, (-0.29%) S&P 500: 2,238.83, -9.83 (-0.46%) Nasdaq: 5,383.12, -48.97, (-0.90%) US 10-year yield: -3.3 basis points at 2.475%

The Russian ruble weakened after Vladimir Putin said he would not retaliate to US sanctions. The currency bounced back after sinking almost 2% against the US dollar, finishing the day down 1.2% after the Russian president said he would not respond to the Obama administration’s decision to sanction Russian diplomats over hacking. Apple will cut production of its iPhone 7 in the first quarter of 2017. Supplier data compiled by Nikkei showed that the production of Apple’s flagship iPhone will be lower than originally expected. A supplier indicated that the cuts were “within expectations.” The US oil rig count hit its highest level in a year. The Baker Hughes rig count ticked up by two, the ninth straight week of increases. Chicago PMI fell to 54.6. This was lower than economists’ forecast of 56.8 for Midwest manufacturing activity.

ADDITIONALLY:

An interview with Markus Schomer, the chief economist of PineBridge Investments

China is behind the latest bitcoin craze

The best charts of 2016

A resolution for the establishment in 2017: No more no-choice politics

This year, we learned the limits of no-choice politics: Telling voters they have to do something they don’t like, or else.

Establishment political parties have been playing a dangerous game – contriving situations in which the only acceptable choice happens to be one favored by elites, and hoping that voters will choose it under duress.

Voters have been revolting against no-choice politics by choosing the unthinkable: Brexit, fringe political parties, rejecting the Italian reform referendum, Trump.

You should be mad at voters for the alarming choices they are making. I certainly am. But you should also be mad at the establishment leaders and political parties who put voters in the position of choosing between the unpalatable and the absurd.

An ever-closer union, whether you like it or not

For decades, the European Union has been officially committed to “ever closer union” – integration that increases over time. But integration in all areas is not necessarily popular with voters.

In particular, there has been resistance to fiscal interdependence – the sort of taxes and transfers that hold the United States together.

Residents of rich countries in Europe suspect (correctly) that fiscal interdependence would mean ongoing transfers of tax revenue toward poorer countries. And residents of poorer countries suspect (correctly) that Germany and other rich countries will seek to tie policy conditions to fiscal integration.

The euro is a device of no-choice politics

Without fiscal transfers to prop up places where the economy is weak, the way countries usually deal with economic imbalances is through exchange rates: The currency of the country in recession weakens, which reduces real wages and prices and makes the country more competitive.

The Euro makes exchange-rate adjustments within the eurozone impossible, meaning that asymmetric economic shocks cannot be addressed with exchange rates or with fiscal policy.

With no good way to adjust, countries of southern Europe have been immiserated since the 2008 economic crash, which hit them harder than it hit countries like Germany.

This was a foreseeable problem. And the elites that foresaw it had a solution in mind: Ever closer union.

That is, the euro without fiscal transfers would prove unworkable, and unwinding the euro would prove unworkable, and therefore Europeans would have no choice but to agree to greater fiscal integration.

No-choice politics have worked poorly for the eurozone

Unsurprisingly, wealthier countries have resisted the creation of the sorts of fiscal transfers that would make the eurozone workable. I call this the “What’s in it for the Dutch?” problem.

That said, richer eurozone members have sometimes agreed to one-off support to struggling countries when it really seemed like they had no choice but to give it.

For example, banks in northern Europe hold a lot of debt issued by the government of Greece, so the members of the eurozone had to bail Greece out if they wished to avoid a catastrophic banking crisis. This did not endear Greece to other eurozone countries.

But it’s not just the richer countries in the zone suffering from no-choice politics. Germany and others have attached stringent terms to their financial assistance, insisting that the laggard countries engage in fiscal austerity and economic reform.

In 2011, Italy and Greece had no choice but to install technocratic governments acceptable to German creditors if they wished to retain access to the credit markets – a situation that surely did not feel terribly democratic to the people of Italy or Greece.

Is it any surprise people all over Europe are pissed off, and feel like they do not have a choice in how they are governed? Should they trust the establishment parties that created the situations in which they had no choice but to do things they didn’t want to do?

Is it a surprise that European voters are resorting to desperate measures to regain control over their countries’ public policy?

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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saw his constitutional referendum fail.
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REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

American immigration policy is driven by no-choice politics

In the United States, elites in both political parties favor liberal immigration policies that admit large numbers of low-skilled workers.

Liberal politicians favor these policies for a combination of humanitarian, constituency politics and demographic reasons. Conservative politicians want to ensure a plentiful supply of low-skilled labor so businesses can pay low wages.

For decades, the federal government has implemented a de-facto liberalization of immigration by failing to effectively enforce immigration laws – not just by letting people cross the border undetected, but also by failing to track who overstays visas and by failing to hold businesses accountable for employing people not authorized to work in the United States.

As a result, approximately 12 million people now live in the United States without legal authorization to be here.

Advocates of immigration reform point out, accurately, that deporting these people en masse would be both impractical and a humanitarian disaster, and that many of them have formed deep ties to the United States. We have no choice but to let a large fraction of them stay.

But we ended up in this no-choice situation by the willful action of political elites who wanted Americans to choose high immigration levels. Effective enforcement on the front end would have left American voters with a choice about what immigration policy to have.

Given this history, why would voters trust the parameters of comprehensive immigration reform, which is built on a promise that next time immigration laws will be enforced for real?

Voters are revolting against no-choice politics

The main argument against Brexit centered not so much on the European Union being a good thing, but on the idea that withdrawal would lead to grave economic damage.

The main argument for electing Hillary Clinton, the second-most unpopular major party presidential nominee in the history of American political polling, was that Donald Trump was too unacceptable to be president.

Italy’s failed reform referendum was supposed to be necessary to prevent another banking crisis.

Voters have repeatedly insisted that they do, in fact, have a choice in these supposed no-choice matters. They have called the establishment’s bluff.

I think we are about to learn the establishment was not bluffing about how unacceptable some of these options were, especially Trump. Voters may be about to learn a painful lesson.

But establishment politicians should learn a painful lesson, too: If you want to be sure to beat a terrible option, offer people something they actually like. Don’t tell them they have no choice but to do what you want.

The Titans fleeced the Rams for a treasure trove of draft picks last year — and it looks even better today

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Marcus Mariota is at the center of the Titans’ bright future.
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James Kenney/AP

Less than a year after the Tennessee Titans traded the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft to the Los Angeles Rams, the deal looks even more lopsided in the Titans’ favor.

The deal included a whopping nine picks, with the Titans receiving four picks in last year’s draft while giving away the No. 1 pick, a fourth-round pick, and a fifth-round pick.

The Rams used that No. 1 pick to draft Jared Goff, while the Titans continued wheeling and dealing on draft day, muddling to a degree who exactly they came away with as a result of the trade.

But while the Rams will end a tumultuous season on Sunday, the Titans are still reaping the rewards from the trade – they’ll receive compensatory first- and third-round picks in the 2017 draft, via the Rams. Because of the Rams’ struggles, the first-round pick could end up in the top five.

Though the Titans, at 8-7 with one game to go, missed the playoffs this season, their future looks considerably brighter than that of the Rams. The Titans have a future franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who improved leaps and bounds in his second year – although his season-ending leg injury is a setback – an offensive line that helped establish the sixth-best run game in the NFL, and the 13th-best run defense in the NFL.

As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell noted in a recent column, the Titans are well positioned to take a step forward next year. Their offensive line is locked in long-term, they’ll have cap space to help build up their defense, and, as a result of the trade, they’ll have four picks in the first three rounds. (Their second-round pick goes to the Browns.)

Comparatively, the Rams still look like they have a long road ahead. While six games are too few to accurately judge Goff, the early results haven’t been encouraging. He’s completed over 60% of his passes just once this season, and he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

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Jared Goff has underwhelmed in his rookie year.
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Rick Osentoski/AP

Part of what plagues the Rams is a weak offensive supporting cast for Goff. Their offensive line gave up the fifth-most sacks in the league and did little to help running back Todd Gurley get space to move, ranking 23rd in “stuffed” percentage, according to Football Outsiders. Additionally, partly because of their quarterback woes, the Rams ranked dead last in pass offense, according to Football Outsiders.

Though the Rams will have some cap space to work with this summer, draft picks would be helpful in adding young, cheap talent to address roster needs.

Some may feel that if Goff turns into a franchise quarterback, the trade will have been worthwhile for the Rams. But for a team that appears to be facing a steep rebuild, giving up six picks could be painful in the meantime.

The Titans, however, could be ready to take the next step. With a young, developing roster, cap space, and extra draft picks – in a weak division – the Titans appear to be heading in the right direction.

New York’s long-awaited Second Avenue subway features some incredible artwork

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Flickr/MTA

New Yorkers will finally get a chance to ride on the long-awaited Second Avenue subway at the start of the new year.

The grand opening has had almost a century worth of delays, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Twitter that the first phase of the line will open January 1. New Yorkers can already see the new line on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subway map.

MTA gave us a sneak preview of the subway and some of its beautiful artwork created by high-profile artists – scroll down for a closer look.


The Second Avenue subway line is a three-stop extension of the Q train. Starting in 2017, the line will travel beyond Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street to service new stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets.

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Flickr/MTA

The grand opening marks the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line extension. The second phase will extend the Q an additional three stops, to 125th Street in Harlem, but that won’t come for a number of years.

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Flickr/MTA

Source: The New York Times


The line may eventually extend to Lower Manhattan as well.

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Flickr/MTA

The new subway line is expected to service 200,000 riders every day.

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Flickr/MTA

Source: MTA


The first phase cost roughly $4.4 billion.

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Flickr/MTA

Source: The New York Times


The Q extension is expected to ease congestion on the 4, 5, and 6 lines along Lexington Avenue.

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Flickr/MTA

The Lexington Avenue line is currently the most crowded subway line in New York, even beating out the consistently overwhelmed L line.

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As someone who commutes on the 6 train from the 77th Street station, I can attest it gives new meaning to the saying “packed like sardines.”
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Flickr/MTA

Source: The New York Times


But alas, the Second Avenue subway is arriving, and hopefully it will ease the pain of commuting for some New Yorkers. As an added bonus, the new stations feature some beautiful new artwork. The 96th Street station, seen here, features a beautiful display by Sarah Sze.

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Flickr/MTA

Sze created the artwork, called “Blueprint for a Landscape,” by applying color and lines to 4,300 porcelain tiles. The deep blue background is punctuated with birds, scaffolding, and foliage caught up in the chaos of a whirlwind.

Source: MTA


Each entrance of the 96th Street station features a different shade of blue.

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Flickr/MTA

Sze represented the US in the Venice Biennale in 2013. Her work is also featured in the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Source: MTA


The 86th Street station features artwork by Chuck Close. Close created 12 large-scale portraits based on his own portrait paintings and prints. Close applied different painting techniques to 10 portraits made of mosaic and two made with ceramic tile.

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Flickr/MTA

Close portrayed different cultural figures, such as Kara Walker, a contemporary artist, who is pictured here.

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Flickr/MTA

Close was a recipient of a National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

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Flickr/MTA

The 72nd Street station showcases the work of Vik Muniz. The artist photographed more than three dozen people to create different “characters” people encounter on the subway.

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Flickr/MTA

Source: MTA


Muniz recreated all of his photographs using mosaics.

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Flickr/MTA

Muniz was born in Brazil and is based in New York City. His work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum.

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Flickr/MTA

Lastly, the 63rd Street station that the Q will pass through got an upgrade and features artwork by Jean Shin. She created mosaic compositions based on archived photos of the Second Avenue and Third Avenue elevated train.

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Flickr/MTA

Shin, born in Seoul, South Korea, “has been commissioned by the US General Services Administration and New York City’s Percent for Art program.”

Source: MTA


Overall, the MTA budgeted $4.5 million for the artwork out of the $4.4 billion set aside for the expansion. The artists were chosen starting in 2009 from a pool of over 300 applicants.

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Flickr/MTA

Source: The New York Times

Trump’s trade policies could have a major effect on one of Apple’s biggest markets

Getting Apple to make iPhones in the US appears to be a sort of pet project for Donald Trump. On multiple occasions, the president-elect has expressed his desire to get the world’s most valuable company to manufacture its most profitable product in America instead of China. He says he’s talked to Apple CEO Tim Cook about it, proposing a “very large tax cut” as an incentive, and Apple has reportedly explored the possibility in the wake of Trump’s election.

More generally, Trump has viciously attacked America’s trade relationship with China. He’s vowed to name the country a currency manipulator (a notion that’s been disputed), and once suggested a massive 45% tariff on any Chinese imports (something he can’t legally do at once). A more recent CNN report said his administration is now considering tariffs as high as 10% on all imports. That’s lower, but the possibility still has some worried about a potential trade war with China, which would likely raise the costs of many US products (the iPhone included).

This could be shaky for Apple’s bottom line. As this chart from Statista shows, China has made up a huge percentage of iPhone shipments over the past few years, according to estimates from research firm Strategy Analytics. Any increased scrutiny would come at a particularly bad time, too, as the iPhone’s growth in China is already declining year-over-year, and overall revenue is down.

When President Obama asked Steve Jobs about the possibility of bringing Chinese manufacturing jobs to the US, the former Apple CEO reportedly said “those jobs aren’t coming back.” The chances of US-made iPhones are still improbable – China has made immense investments to foster iPhone production – but as we head into 2017, it’ll be interesting to see if Tim Cook can tell our next president the same.

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Statista

Trump praises Putin for ‘great move’ not responding to Russia sanctions: ‘I always knew he was very smart!’

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Donald Trump.
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Ralph Freso/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday for his decision not to respond to sanctions levied by US President Barack Obama’s administration this week in retaliation for suspected election-related hacking.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump tweeted.

The president-elect pinned the tweet to the top of his Twitter page. The message was also retweeted by the Russian Embassy in the US.

Putin had said earlier that the Kremlin would “not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy” in response to the sanctions and the ejection of 35 Russian diplomats from the US.

“Although we have the right to retaliate,” Putin said, Russia would instead “plan our further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump administration.”

Putin’s move to stay silent was characterized by Michael Kofman, a global fellow at the Wilson Center who specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs, as “the most damaging and embarrassing answer [the US] could receive.”

Trump has been reluctant to blame election-related hacking on Russia, despite US intelligence agencies saying the country was behind the cyberattacks.

Instead, the president-elect has repeatedly suggested he would like the US to have a warmer relationship with Russia and work together on issues like combatting terrorism.

Mexico’s soaring gas prices have angered citizens — and the backlash has been fierce

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A woman walks next to fuel pumps at Pemex gas station in Mexico City, Mexico, on December 28.
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REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

On December 27, days after gasoline shortages closed gas stations and caused immense lines at others, the Mexican government announced that gasoline and diesel prices would go up by between 14% and 20% over the next year.

The price increases come as part of a planned liberalization of Mexico’s energy market, which involves the move from subsidies that kept gas prices low to a market-based pricing scheme that will adjust prices at the pump more frequently.

The public backlash to these price increases has been swift. Critics have inveighed against President Enrique Pena Nieto, with a leftist opposition leader calling for a “peaceful revolution” that would include gas station boycotts.

Many people have said they’d hoard gasoline, buying it from stations that in many states are already dealing with supply shortages. Illegal gas sales have popped up, and protests have already taken place in some parts of the country, with more planned for January 1.

On social media, criticism has been leveled against the government officials behind the price increases. In the image below, Jose Antonio Meade, the finance ministry chief behind the move, is portrayed as a “chupasangre,” or “bloodsucker.”

In the image below, Pena Nieto, shown in cowboy garb, orders Mexicans to put their hands up because “this is a gasolinazo.” The suffix -azo denotes a strike or blow.

While research has questioned which income class benefits the most from the gas price subsidies that have been in place, the price increases have nonetheless outraged many poor and working-class segments of the population.

The increases would mean Mexicans – about 52% of whom live in poverty – would spend more of their annual income on fuel than the residents of 59 other countries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Civil-society groups have announced plans to organize demonstrations and blockades in response to the change, and their leaders have articulated just how much of a threat the increases pose.

“We see the gasolinazo as an attack against the population, as a robbery, taking into account the levels of income of the population,” Jose Narro, director of the workers’ group Coordinadora Nacional Plan de Ayala, told Reforma.

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A supporter of Mexican leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador protests against energy reforms in Mexico City on September 22, 2013. The posters read “Thirsting for power. Mexico is not for sale,” on the left, and “Oil, heart of Mexico.”
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REUTERS/Bernardo Montoya

“We reject totally the increase of the prices and we demand that, in 48 hours, by the final minute of December 31, they have to suspend this decree through which regional maximum prices are authorized,” Alfonso Ramirez, director of El Barzón Nacional, a civil-society group focused on inequality and human rights, told Reforma.

The Mexican central bank has warned that gas price increases would likely contribute to inflation at a time when the peso has already weakened significantly against the US dollar.

Concamin, a major industrial trade group, has voiced concern about cost pressures and called for a “protective shield” for national industry, “owing that the industrial sector faces a lack of growth, high interest rates, and the depreciation of the peso.”

There were even reports that one of the country’s most powerful drugorganized-crime groups-the Jalisco New Generation cartel– had joined the fray.

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Police near the covered body of a person who died after a bus was set on fire in Guadalajara on March 9, 2012. Gunmen torched vehicles and blockaded roads during a military operation to arrest two leaders of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
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REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta

A WhatsApp message circulating in Jalisco state, purportedly from the CJNG, threatened gasoline stations it accuses of speculating on gas prices.

“The CJNG, in support of the working class, commits itself to making burn all the gasoline stations that to December 30 of the current year, at 10:00 p.m.” – before the price increases go into effect – “have not normalized the sale of fuel at the fair price,” the message said, according to the Mexican news outlet Aristegui Noticias.

“They are speculating in order to obtain million-dollar profits before the majority of the people who don’t make the minimum salary, we have already realized that the [shortage] of fuel is because the dealers don’t want to sell fuel until this increases their price, all our people are already ready to start the mission,” the message reads.

The Jalisco state attorney general’s office opened an investigation into the message, saying it would not tolerate attacks on gasoline stations. The attorney general announced on Friday afternoon that the message was not sent by the CJNG.

Rather, it was the work of a WhatsApp account known for sending threats supposedly related to organized crime, but many of which were in fact false, according to the Jalisco attorney general.

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, president of the National Regeneration Movement party, speaks to supporters in Mexico City on June 26.
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REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme

While there doesn’tappearto have been any violence related to shortages, the looming price increase has galvanized new antigovernment fervor at a time when Pena Nieto’s approval ratings are already some of the lowest in recent history.

Leftist opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – who appears likely to benefit from Pena Nieto’s many missteps – has put blame for the gasolinazo on the shoulders of Pena Nieto’s center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party and the conservative National Action Party, calling the former “corrupt and cynical” and the latter hypocrites.

The policy and its rollout have further diminished the perception of the Mexican president and his party, which has been a trend for some time.

“Mexicans were promised lower electricity prices, they got higher electricity prices. Mexicans were told austerity was needed, they got a congress that showers itself with bonuses,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, a Dutch journalist based in Mexico, wrote on Facebook. “Mexicans were promised more security and a fairer justice state, they got homicide rates back at the level of 2012, the Ayotzinapa massacre and its botched investigation, etc.”

“If you say one thing and are then time and time again perceived to do the exact opposite, what starts off as irritation among the public at some point will simply boil over,” Hootsen concluded.

An earlier version of this story attributed a WhatsApp message threating gas stations to the Jalisco New Generation cartel. After publication, the Jalisco state attorney general announced that it had found the message to be of another, non-cartel origin. This story has been updated throughout.

‘You may be seeing a bit more of me’: Jesse Watters discusses past controversies and his future at Fox News

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Jesse Watters hosting a Fox New Year’s Eve special.
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Fox News

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly raised eyebrows earlier this year when he said he may not be interested in hosting his ratings juggernaut “The O’Reilly Factor” for much longer.

When the cable-news heavyweight eventually decides to retire, a piece of his legacy will live on in a protégé groomed for Fox News stardom: Jesse Watters.

“I think he’s either living vicariously through me, or he’s reliving things he did back in the day,” Watters said of O’Reilly.

Over the past decade, Watters’ segments on O’Reilly’s show – dubbed “Watters World” by O’Reilly – have become an integral part of the broadcast, bookending “The O’Reilly Factor” twice a week.

Ranging several minutes, “Watters World” finds the Fox correspondent interviewing and poking fun at average people on the street in primarily liberal enclaves, often college campuses or various neighborhoods in New York City. Recent episodes showed Watters interviewing Canadians about President-elect Donald Trump and interviewing veterans at Hampshire College protesting the school’s decision to take down the flag following Trump’s election.

Watters also serves as an extension of O’Reilly during ambush interview segments, unafraid to get into his interview subject’s face with aggressive questions, unrelenting particularly when his questions are unwelcome.

“When the cause is just and there’s been injustice, then it’s easy to kind of galvanize your emotions and confront a guy,” Watters told Business Insider in an interview in December. “And it’s intense and there’s a lot of adrenaline involved, but those usually make a big splash.”

O’Reilly will often tease the segments, which are stacked at the back of the program, with the idea that they are a draw for viewers.

According to Watters, O’Reilly generates many of the ideas for the segments himself and often has visuals and locations in mind.

“Usually he’ll say, like, ‘This is kind of how I want you to approach it,’ and then he’ll give me one line, and then I have to fill in the rest,” Watters said. “Bill is very understanding of the backdrop of the segment. I think because he was a field guy for so many years, he’s very interested in aesthetics behind the ‘Watters World,’ where it’s being shot, why it’s being shot there.”

But while Watters described 2016 as a banner year for the show, with high ratings and interviews with high-profile guests like then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Watters has also found his brand of man-on-the-street and ambush interviews under greater scrutiny.

In October, Watters ignited a firestorm of criticism over a man-on-the-street segment he shot in New York’s Chinatown.

Ostensibly dispatched to discuss China’s role in the 2016 presidential election, Watters invoked numerous racial stereotypes of Asian-Americans for a laugh. He quizzed people about whether it was the “year of the dragon,” inquired about karate lessons, and asked whether he was supposed to bow to Asian passersby he saw on the street.

The segment was roundly criticized by media outlets and lawmakers alike – The Washington Post dubbed it “offensive,” while Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said Watters “should be ashamed” of his conduct.

Though he offered a fairly restrained apology in October, Watters characterized the segment as a mistake and a learning experience.

“I was surprised, at the time, with the blowback,” Watters told Business Insider. “I didn’t see it coming, and that’s on me. I understand I did offend a lot of people, and I’m very sorry for that. People took issue with some of the statements I made, and some of the reaction to the Chinatown segment, and I understand that. And it’s a learning experience – I definitely learned a lot from it. But it’s a new day, and we are moving forward with it.”

He added: “It’s a controversial segment, ‘Watters World.’ There’s controversy around it. There’s controversy around Fox, I understand that. But I listen to people, and I never want to intentionally cause anybody to be upset. It was never my intention to hurt people’s feelings. And I regret that I did hurt people’s feelings.”

Asked if he would have conducted himself differently, Watters paused.

“I would, but I don’t want to dissect this segment – I think it’s been dissected,” he replied.

It wasn’t Watters’ first time facing criticism; at one point, the Fox News correspondent found himself in a brief physical altercation with Huffington Post editor Ryan Grim over Watters’ years-old ambush of Huffington Post editor Amanda Terkel.

More recently, Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple admonished Watters for eschewing a traditional sit-down or phone interview in favor of an ambush. Wemple took issue with Watters’ decision to stick his foot into the president of Hampshire College’s private residence during an ambush interview about the college’s decision not to fly the American flag.

Asked about the criticism, Watters indicated he did not know who Wemple was and noted that Hampshire reversed course just days after the segment aired.

“I’ll let that speak for itself,” Watters said.

Watters added: “I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff that they write. It doesn’t really bother me that much. I stand by my work, especially the confrontations. There are heroes and villains out there in the media landscape, in the news landscape, in the political landscape. People sometimes get called out, they react how they react. And I’m proud of what I do.”

Viewers of “The O’Reilly Factor” and Fox News have been equally unshaken by critics, teeing up Watters for perhaps one of his biggest career years.

The correspondent will reprise his role as anchor during Fox’s New Year’s Eve special, and he is set to make his debut on O’Reilly’s nationwide comedy tour. Watters has also been able to maintain the ratings dominance of “The O’Reilly Factor” when filling in for the bombastic host, easily besting CNN and MSNBC when anchoring the show in December.

Watters himself hinted at a potentially larger role at the network in the coming year.

“Whatever Fox wants me to do, I’ll do,” Watters said. “I’m just going to keep working hard, keep my head down. There may be a few surprises coming up in the new year – you’ll have to stay tuned for that. You may be seeing a little bit more of me.”

For the moment, Watters is anticipating how the incoming administration’s politics will affect many of his man-on-the-street segments, which have often revolved around questioning liberal dogma and Obama administration policies.

Though he said that poking fun at the left “never gets old,” he acknowledged that he was “getting a little tired” of soliciting responses to the Obama administration’s practices.

“I think it’s time for a change,” Watters said. “I think Donald Trump is going to make Watters World great again. Because it’s going to be a new dynamic on the streets. And that’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s definitely going to turn the whole thing upside down, and that’ll be a new challenge.”

Disclosure: This reporter briefly worked as a fellow at The Huffington Post.

BANNON: In 2016, what the ‘hobbits and deplorables’ had to say ‘was what mattered most’

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Stephen K. Bannon.
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Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon looked back at the 2016 election in an interview with Breitbart News published Friday, saying the “hobbits and deplorables” who had been discounted had the biggest voice this past year.

The former Breitbart chairman recalled Sen. John McCain’s 2011 comments referring to “tea-party hobbits” and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s comment on the campaign trail saying half of President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters fell into a “basket of deplorables.”

“We used to tease, after John McCain made that speech that time, that called our audience ‘hobbits,’ it was always great to hear what the hobbits had to say because at the end of the day what they had to say was what mattered most,” Bannon said.

Bannon also said he expected 2017 to be more exciting than 2016.

“We don’t like to try to guess what’s going to happen in the future, but I’ve got to tell you, I think people were very engaged in this election, and I think will be very engaged as time goes forward,” Bannon said. “The key is to hold people accountable. The hobbits, or the deplorables, had a great run in ’16. Everybody mocked them and ridiculed them, and now they’ve spoken.”

He also encouraged Breitbart commenters to continue to “hold people accountable.”

“I noticed on Breitbart over the last month or two, as either certain [Trump administration] appointments were made or certain things were done that didn’t comport with behavior that the deplorables or the hobbits thought were correct, it was interesting to see some of the articles written on the site, and the intensity in the comments,” Bannon said.

“I think that’s great,” he added. “People are engaged.”

Breitbart, a right-wing website, was very supportive of Trump in the general election, and Bannon was eventually brought on as CEO of Trump’s campaign.