Winter Olympics, SpaceX, Steve Wynn: Your Wednesday Briefing

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The Falcon Heavy rocket launched successfully on Tuesday, the most powerful rocket sent into space by a private company. Built by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, it carried a mannequin strapped into a car from Mr. Musk’s other company, Tesla. Credit SpaceX, via Associated Press

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

The era of easy money is ending

• The wild market swings of the past few days can be traced to the positive U.S. jobs report on Friday, a sign of a strengthening economy in which workers are finally earning higher wages. But the report also raised fears of inflation and the possibility that the Federal Reserve would react by raising interest rates.

Global markets lacked a decisive direction today. On Tuesday, a Times photographer visited Wall Street, which regained some of the losses from the sell-off a day before.

We answered some readers’ questions about the market turmoil, and suggest six things to ask yourself before selling shares.

Here are the latest numbers from the U.S. and around the world.

Focus on the economy, not the markets

• What have stocks been telling us lately? In all likelihood, not much, our senior economics correspondent suggests.

More important are other economic data and the bond markets, which are offering a brighter picture than share indexes.

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But … there is some cause for concern: Productivity growth has slumped, and the rate of company creations in the U.S. is half what it was four decades ago.

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Russia fills a U.S. policy void

• Libya is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and President Trump has said the U.S. has “no role” there.

At the same time, he has stated that America must take a “leading role” by carrying out counterterrorism strikes against the Islamic State and supporting political reconciliation in the North African country.

The absence of a coherent policy, according to Libyan officials, American military commanders and intelligence analysts, has helped Russia spread its influence in the Middle East, at Washington’s expense.

“I’d love to see a shutdown”

• President Trump has embraced the idea of a government shutdown if a spending deal that tightens immigration laws can’t be reached.

Budget negotiators in Congress were more optimistic on Tuesday: “We are closer to an agreement than we have ever been,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said.

If a bipartisan deal falls through, it’s unclear how lawmakers would keep the government open past Thursday.

Kim Jong-un’s sister to attend Olympics

• Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader and a key player in his regime, will visit South Korea for the Winter Games, officials said today.

It will be the first visit to the South by an immediate member of the North’s ruling family. South Korean news outlets referred to Ms. Kim as “Kim Jong-un’s Ivanka,” likening her influence to that of President Trump’s daughter.

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North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and his sister, Kim Yo-jong, in an undated picture. She is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday. Credit North Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

We answer your questions about the Pyeongchang Games, discuss the latest in curling technology (a.k.a. the SmartBroom), and examine the successes and stresses of Russia’s female figure skaters.

Stretch for the stars

A new rocket headed into space on Tuesday, powered for the first time by a private company rather than a government space agency. (Watch video of the launch here.)

The Falcon Heavy, built by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with one of Mr. Musk’s other creations onboard: a Tesla sports car.

“It’s kind of silly and fun, but silly and fun things are important,” Mr. Musk said.

Video

Watch the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch

The success of this launch gives SpaceX momentum to begin developing even larger rockets, which could help fulfill Elon Musk’s dream of sending people to Mars.

By SPACEX, VIA REUTERS. Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »

The Daily

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Tax Cuts and the Economy

When Republicans cut corporate taxes, most economists rejected claims that working Americans would benefit. So why are so many companies handing out bonuses?

Audio
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A residential building in the coastal city of Hualien in Taiwan. At least five people were killed and dozens are feared trapped after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake on Tuesday. Credit Central News Agency, via Associated Press

Business

The casino mogul Stephen Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades.

The Los Angeles Times is being sold for $500 million to Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire doctor. After months of turmoil at the newspaper, its owner, Tronc, announced the deal today.

The Apple HomePod has arrived. Our tech columnist’s review of the smart speaker: Don’t rush to buy it.

“We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos.” The owner of the chip manufacturer clarified that it was not planning a version of the snack with less crunch and not as much orange finger dust.

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

With tax season upon us, here’s what to remember.

The director Guillermo del Toro offers his tips for a trip to Mexico.

Recipe of the day: Baked rice with chicken is a great way to feed a crowd.

Noteworthy

What teenagers are learning from online porn

American adolescents watch much more pornography than their parents know — and it’s shaping their ideas about pleasure, power and intimacy. Can they be taught to see it more critically? It’s the cover story of this week’s Times Magazine.

Do you think you know what kids are watching these days? See how your guess compares with a survey about adolescents and porn.

A science-minded chef tries to clone his success

Grant Achatz does better by the food than the drinks as he replicates his Chicago cocktail lounges in Manhattan. Our restaurant critic reviews the Aviary and the Office.

Best of late-night TV

Stephen Colbert used a schoolyard taunt to try to persuade President Trump to speak with the special counsel: “Chicken!”

Quotation of the day

“One hundred years in the context of history is a drop in the ocean.”

Julianne Hughes-Jennet, a lawyer, on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in Britain.

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A suffragist, Charlotte Despard, in London in 1910, eight years before women in Britain won, with some restrictions, the right to vote. The 100th anniversary of that milestone was celebrated on Tuesday, even as women cited persistent problems with harassment and discrimination. Credit Press Association, via Associated Press

The Times, in other words

Here’s an image of today’s front page, and links to our Opinion content and crossword puzzles.

Back Story

Maybe you thought it was just the title of a Tom Wolfe novel.

On this day in 1497, supporters of the firebrand Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola burned “indecent” cosmetics, art and books in Florence, Italy. It became the best known of many such fires, and usually gets uppercase status: the Bonfire of the Vanities.

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Girolamo Savonarola. Credit Getty Images

Savonarola railed against corruption and advocated the destruction of secular art and culture. He denounced the nude paintings of the Italian Renaissance and attacked the powerful Medici family.

He briefly led Florence — one account called him its “moral dictator” — when the Medicis were temporarily ousted in 1494. He drew support from those who felt culturally and economically alienated. And he spread his message through one-page screeds, becoming one of the first purveyors of printed political propaganda.

But a few months after his major bonfire, he was excommunicated by a foe, the Borgia pope Alexander VI. The next year, he was executed: hanged and burned before a mob in the Piazza della Signoria.

The monastery that served as his home and headquarters is now the Museum of San Marco in Florence.

Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

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