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Mark Zuckerberg Said Facebook Will Review Posts That Threaten Use Of Force Or Voter Suppression

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised sweeping changes to the social network’s internal policies on threats of state use of force and voter suppression after weeks of internal and external pressure at the embattled company.

In a post on his Facebook page on Friday, the 36-year-old billionaire also declared that “Black lives matter,” while noting that he believes that the company’s platforms, which also include WhatsApp and Instagram, “will play a positive role” in overcoming racial injustice in the US and around the world.

The promises come after the company faced backlash from the public and its own employees after it allowed posts last month from President Donald Trump that spread misinformation about voting and suggested that violent action would be taken against protestors amid widespread national demonstrations against racism and police brutality. In his post, which was originally directed to his workers, Zuckerberg said he acknowledged his decision to allow Trump’s posts “left many of you angry, disappointed, and hurt.”

“While we will continue to stand for giving everyone a voice and erring on the side of free expression in these difficult decisions — even when it’s speech we strongly and viscerally disagree with — I’m committed to making sure we also fight for voter engagement and racial justice too,” he wrote in the nearly 1,400-word message.

Zuckerberg’s response follows two weeks of immense pressure from employees who engaged in open revolt to the company’s decisions on Trump’s posts. Those workers publicly hammered their employer on Twitter, engaged in a virtual walkout on Monday, and confronted their CEO, who maintains majority voting control over Facebook, during question-and-answer meetings.

“It’s encouraging to see Zuck post this, but I’ll maintain my skepticism until some sort of action is taken by the company,” one current Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News under the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “I do think Zuck is being sincere in all this, I just don’t know if he will be convinced to do anything.”

Zuckerberg’s was less a commitment to any real action, but made several promises that the Facebook CEO said could help “to heal the divisions in our society.” In recent years, critics have railed on Facebook for its algorithmic spreading of misinformation, abetting genocide, and failure to protect its users personal information.

Last week, Trump came under fire for posting on Facebook that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” words that were deemed appropriate by the company and its CEO to leave on its platform. On Friday, Zuckerberg said Facebook will review situations around content that discusses “excessive use of police or state force” or occurs in countries that have “ongoing civil unrest or violent conflicts.”

“We already have precedents for imposing greater restrictions during emergencies and when countries are in ongoing states of conflict, so there may be additional policies or integrity measures to consider around discussion or threats of state use of force when a country is in this state,” he wrote without committing to any specific change in policy.

On voter suppression, Zuckerberg noted that “ there’s a good chance that there will be unprecedented fear and confusion around going to the polls in November, and some will likely try to capitalize on that confusion.”

He then posed a series of rhetorical questions, asking where Facebook should draw the line on what comprises voter suppression. As one possible example, he asked, “If a newspaper publishes articles claiming that going to polls will be dangerous given Covid, how should we determine whether that is health information or voter suppression?”

Zuckerberg also said the company is building a voter hub to help people understand how they can vote, drawing on experiences the social network learned during the coronavirus pandemic and 2016 election.

Notably, the company will also consider ways to label potentially volitive content on its platform without having to decide between the two options of leaving it up or taking it down. While company executives had previously derided this idea in past meetings with employees following Twitter’s decision to place some of Trump’s tweets behind warning labels, Zuckerberg said he is open to discussions around the idea. He previously expressed that same sentiment in a company meeting on Tuesday, as reported by Recode.

“In general, I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don’t like even if it doesn’t violate our policies, so I think we need to proceed very carefully,” Zuckerberg wrote on Friday.

Mark Luckie, a former Facebook employee who quit in 2018 because he said he experienced discrimination at the company, was not impressed by Zuckerberg’s post.

“In classic Mark Zuckerberg fashion, there is very little in his note that he and the company can be held accountable for,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Most of the bullet points are ‘we are going to review’ and the most concrete effort — a voter hub — is something that has already been executed previously.”

Zuckerberg also said Facebook would be building products to “advance racial justice” before declaring “Black lives matter.”

Those words carry with them plenty of controversy within Facebook’s walls. In 2016, an employee crossed out the phrase on a whiteboard at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters and wrote beside it “all lives matter,” stirring outrage.

“Mark can say he stands by the Black community but until he shows us actual proof of this we should not be content with fluffy, PR-friendly statements,” Luckie told BuzzFeed News.

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This year’s D-Day events will be one of the loneliest – The Mercury News

By Raf Casert | Associated Press

SAINT-LAURENT-SUR-MER, France — At least the dead will always be there.

All too many have been, for 76 years since that fateful June 6 on France’s Normandy beaches, when allied troops in 1944 turned the course of World War II and went on to defeat fascism in Europe in one of the most remarkable feats in military history.

Forgotten they will never be. Revered, yes. But Saturday’s anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever, as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from government leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their unlucky comrades.

Rain and wind are also forecast, after weeks of warm, sunny weather.

“I miss the others,” said Charles Shay, who as a U.S. Army medic was in the first wave of soldiers to wade ashore at Omaha Beach under relentless fire on D-Day.

Shay, 95, lives in France close to the beach where he and so many others landed in 1944. He knows of no U.S. veterans making the trip overseas to observe D-Day this year.

“I guess I will be alone here this year,” Shay said before he performed a Native American ritual to honor his comrades by spreading the smoke of burning white sage into the winds lashing the Normandy coast Friday.

The eerie atmosphere touches the French as well as Americans.

“The sadness is almost too much, because there is no one,” said local guide Adeline James. “Plus you have their stories. The history is sad and it’s even more overwhelming now between the weather, the (virus) situation and, and, and.”

The locals in this northwestern part of France have come out year after year to show their gratitude for the soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries who liberated them from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces.

Despite the lack of international crowds, David Pottier still went out to raise American flags in the Calvados village of Mosles, population 356, which was liberated by allied troops the day after the landing on five Normandy beachheads.

In a forlorn scene, a gardener tended to the parched grass around the small monument for the war dead, while Pottier, the local mayor, was getting the French tricolor to flutter next to the Stars and Stripes.

“We have to recognize that they came to die in a foreign land,” Pottier said. “We miss the GIs,” he said of the U.S. soldiers.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, infecting 6.6 million people, killing over 391,000 and devastating economies. It poses a particular threat to the elderly — like the surviving D-Day veterans who are in their late nineties or older.

It has also affected the younger generations who turn out every year to mark the occasion. Most have been barred from traveling to the windswept coasts of Normandy.

Some 160,000 soldiers made the perilous crossing from England that day in atrocious conditions, storming dunes which they knew were heavily defended by German troops determined to hold their positions.

Somehow, they succeeded. Yet they left a trail of thousands of casualties who have been mourned for generations since.

Last year stood out, with U.S. President Donald Trump joining French President Emmanuel Macron at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. A smattering of veterans were honored with the highest accolades. All across the beaches of Normandy tens of thousands came from across the globe to pay their respects to the dead and laud the surviving soldiers.

The acrid smell of wartime-era jeep exhaust fumes and the rumble of old tanks filled the air as parades of vintages vehicles went from village to village. The tiny roads between the dunes, hedges and apple orchards were clogged for hours, if not days.

Heading into the D-Day remembrance weekend this year, only the salty brine coming off the ocean on Omaha Beach hits the nostrils, the shrieks of seagulls pierce the ears and a sense of desolation hangs across the region’s country roads.

“Last year, this place was full with jeeps, trucks, people dressed up as soldiers,” said Eric Angely, who sat on a seawall wearing a World War II uniform after taking his restored U.S. Army jeep out for a ride.

“This year, there is nothing. It’s just me now, my dog and my jeep,” the local Frenchman said.

Three-quarters of a century and the horrific wartime slaughter of D-Day help put things in perspective. Someday, the COVID-19 pandemic, too, will pass, and people will turn out to remember both events that shook the world.

“We don’t have a short memory around here,” Pottier said with a wistful smile.

Virginia Mayo contributed.

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What to Make of the Numbers in the May Jobs Report

The job market halted its pandemic-induced collapse in May as employers brought back millions of workers and the unemployment rate unexpectedly declined.

Tens of millions remain out of work, and the unemployment rate, which fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent in April, remains higher than in any previous postwar recession.

But employers added 2.5 million jobs in May, the Labor Department said Friday, defying economists’ expectations of further losses and offering hope that the rebound from the pandemic-induced economic crisis could be faster than forecast.

Major stock indexes surged on the news, and President Trump hailed the report in a series of tweets on Friday morning.

Still, economists warn that it will take far longer for the economy to climb out of the hole than it did to fall into it. Job openings have begun to rise but remain far below normal levels. Millions more people have been laid off in the weeks since the data released Friday was collected in mid-May. And the trillions of dollars in government assistance that have helped keep the economy on life support may be nearing their end.

“We might have climbed one rung of the ladder out of the hole, but it’s still a long ladder,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Economics.

The Labor Department cautioned that data-collection issues that have plagued the agency throughout the crisis continued last month. Some temporarily jobless workers were characterized as “employed” in May; had they been counted correctly, the department said, the unemployment rate would have topped 16 percent.

Even if they didn’t anticipate the May rebound, many economists had expected that unemployment would begin to ease as states reopened and businesses called employees back to work.

More than half of the month’s job gains — 1.4 million — were in restaurants and bars, many of which received assistance under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Friday’s report suggests that program, along with other elements of the government’s response, helped offset at least some of the economic damage caused by the shutdown, which should allow for a faster rebound.

“The economy is still being very much buffered by stimulus,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “When that starts to wane we will learn a lot more about the underlying health of the recovery.”

[How do you feel about going back to work? Share your story.]

At Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a Florida-based chain of more than 150 sports bars, business was down 62 percent in April, when its dining rooms were closed nationwide and its only business came from takeout. But only a handful of the chain’s restaurants have closed permanently, in part because nearly all of its franchisees received Paycheck Protection loans.

“The damage would have been much greater without PPP, I can tell you that,” said Chris Elliott, the chief executive.

Now business has begun to pick up as states gradually allow restaurants to reopen. In the last week of May, sales were down about 15 percent, Mr. Elliott said, and customers appear eager to eat out again.

Still, the longer-run outlook is uncertain. If business stays at its current level, many franchisees will struggle to eke out a profit, he said, and many locations are still losing money. That won’t be sustainable for long.

“There are going to be franchise owners that if they can’t reach 15 percent, or it doesn’t improve incrementally over time, they’re going to get fatigued, and I think some of them are at risk of just throwing in the towel,” Mr. Elliott said.

Job growth in May was concentrated in sectors hit hardest in the early stages of the crisis, such as leisure and hospitality and retail. But manufacturing, health care and professional services all added jobs as well — another good sign for the recovery because it suggests that the damage has not spread as deeply into the economy as many feared.

Still, employment in nearly every sector remains far below where it was before the crisis began. Many economists expect an initial rebound in at least some kinds of business. But it isn’t clear how strong that surge will be, or what will come after.

“It’s the jump and then the crawl, and the question is how high is the jump and then how long does the crawl take,” said Nick Bunker, who leads North American economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab.

  • Updated June 5, 2020

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Friday’s report sent mixed messages on those questions. The number of workers reporting that they were on a temporary layoff or furlough fell by 2.7 million, a sign that employers are calling back workers. But the number of people reporting they had lost their jobs permanently rose, by about 100,000.

“That is a concerning sign for the length of the recovery because every layoff that turns permanent makes a full recovery harder,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor. “The surprise to me in this report is that the recovery was earlier than we expected. But the next question is whether it will be faster than we expected.”

When Mike Lowe flew to Florida in early March to visit his mother, he had a successful freelance business doing web and graphic design, and a part-time gig in dog day care. A week later, he arrived home in Portland, Ore., to a text message from the dog business telling him not to go into work. He was let go entirely within days, even as his freelance clients began calling to cancel orders.

Two and a half months later, Oregon has begun to reopen, but Mr. Lowe, 51, is treading water. One freelance project looks likely to resume soon, but another client, a local bar, told him this week that it would shut down permanently — its business relied on live music, which seems unlikely to come back anytime soon. The owner of the dog day care says she hopes to bring him back at reduced hours but isn’t sure when business will rebound sufficiently to make that possible.

“I’d say I’m just in wait-and-see mode at the moment,” he said.

Like many laid-off workers, Mr. Lowe is able to get by largely because of the $600 a week in extra unemployment pay that Congress approved as part of its emergency funding bill in March. But that benefit is set to run out at the end of July, and it is far from clear that Congress will extend it. Economists warn that pulling away support too early could stall the recovery.

“Right now, the government is plugging a good deal of that hole for households, but how long will that last, we don’t know,” said Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist for Morgan Stanley. She noted that the unemployment rate will almost certainly still be elevated in August, adding, “It’s a very tough time to pull support away from households when the unemployment rate is still that high.”

Even now, as some businesses start to bring back workers, layoffs are continuing. Nearly two million workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits last week, more than double the worst week of any previous recession. State and local governments cut nearly half a million jobs in May, and millions more such layoffs are likely in coming months in response to plunging tax revenues.

In Jackson, Mich., a small city about 70 miles west of Detroit, the school board voted last week to cut more than 40 positions in response to a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. Jeff Beal, the district’s superintendent, said he worried about the impact the cuts would have on education and on the local economy. But he said the district had little choice.

Among the cuts: the assistant superintendent for human resources, which means Mr. Beal will have to inform laid-off workers himself.

“Now that that position has been eliminated, that responsibility falls to me,” he said. “I’m going to have to make a lot of very personal, very painful phone calls this week.”

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‘AOC effect’ put to the test in heated New York primaries





Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Updated


NEW YORK — One of New York City’s congressional primaries is among the progressive movement’s best hopes for a repeat of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s upset win in 2018. Another could deal a blow to that movement.

In one district that touches the north end of the Bronx, a three-decade incumbent, white congressman will have to fend off a challenge from a progressive, black candidate just weeks after getting caught on a hot mic saying he “wouldn’t care” about speaking on the city’s civil unrest if he didn’t have a primary to win.

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About a mile away, a conservative Democratic minister with a long history of homophobic remarks appears to have a slight edge in a crowded race with far more liberal contenders, including a young, gay progressive once labeled a “rising star” in Democratic politics.

As the city careens from a crippling pandemic to civil unrest, the events of the past three months have upended — and largely overshadowed — the House primary races that would otherwise have dominated New York’s political calendar and attracted national interest. Democratic voters will cast their ballots on June 23 for the primaries, which often are the deciding contests in this liberal city.

With the virus still spreading, most voters are likely to vote by mail — creating significant uncertainty around turnout as the traditional rituals of in-person campaigning have been abandoned.

In the 16th Congressional District in the north Bronx and part of Westchester, Jamaal Bowman is taking on Rep. Eliot Engel, the 73-year-old, 16-term incumbent who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hammered by his primary opponent for holing up outside Washington for much of the pandemic, Engel appeared at a press conference in the Bronx this week, pleading for a chance to speak, saying, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

Bowman’s campaign reported raising more than $107,000 the day of the flub.

“It’s disgusting. It’s abhorrent. It’s unfortunate, and it’s disappointing. But it’s not surprising,” Bowman said. “We’ve been very critical of Congressman Engel’s absence from the district during this pandemic. We’ve been very critical of his absence during his 31 years in Congress.”

Bowman, a former middle school principal who is backed by the Justice Democrats, got another boost this week when a fellow progressive challenger dropped out of the race and lent his support. Andom Ghebreghiorgis said Bowman had the best chance to “deliver a progressive win and unseat Representative Engel.” On Wednesday he was endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez as he executes a similar playbook to the one that led her to victory over Joe Crowley in 2018.

Bowman said he has retooled his campaign during the pandemic to focus in part on mutual aid, including getting food to seniors who need it. “If you’re not here in the district you cannot feel the pain and the struggle people are going through,” he said. “He’s taken the voters for granted for far too long.”

At a virtual debate this week, Engel touted his ability to secure health care and education funding for the district and his role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“I have been one of the real pains in the neck to Donald Trump in Washington,” he said. “I’ve now had lots of seniority, being in Congress a long time, and I have the clout. I bring home the bacon. I bring home the money. I can do those kinds of things. That’s not something a freshman can do.”

That seniority and clout were cited by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday who endorsed Engel. He also has the backing of Rep. Gregory Meeks, head of the Queens Democratic party, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

And the district is far different than that won by Ocasio-Cortez. While touching urban areas like the Bronx and Yonkers, it also encompasses Scarsdale and Bronxville, some of the wealthiest towns in America, where Bowman’s progressive message may not be as welcome.

Meanwhile, in New York’s 15th Congressional District in the South Bronx, Pentecostal Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr. — a bombastic social conservative who opposes abortion rights and was censured last year for saying his City Council colleagues were controlled by the “homosexual community” — appears to be out front in the race to replace Rep. José Serrano, who is retiring after three decades in office.

Among the other candidates is Ritchie Torres, the city’s first openly gay Latino Council member. A 2016 profile in the New Yorker titled “Fighting for the Poor Under Trump” labeled him a rising star. Now he’s fighting a Trump-friendly Democrat for the party nomination.

A super PAC backed by LGBT donors was launched to oppose Díaz Sr. and is running ads urging voters to choose “#anyonebutdiaz.” Reproductive rights groups like Planned Parenthood’s political arm are opposing his candidacy.

“Rubén Díaz is a Republican look-alike who would side with Donald Trump,” said Eric Koch, a strategist for the PAC, Bronx United.

But the anti-Díaz forces are fractured, with a host of prominent Democrats still in the running and dividing progressive support. A dozen candidates are expected to appear on the ballot.

Torres is the fundraising leader and has the support of national LGBT groups. But community activist Samelys López is the favorite of Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party.

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has garnered support from teachers’ unions and others, while Assemblymember Michael Blake has a host of labor endorsements.

Traditional polling groups have not surveyed the primary races, so far. But according to a poll conducted by the left-leaning group Data for Progress, 22 percent of voters in the district said they would vote for Díaz Sr. while 20 percent picked Torres. All the other contenders were in single digits, though more than a third of voters said they weren’t sure who they’d support.

“The more crowded the race, the more advantage to Rubén Díaz Sr. Candidates who have no path to victory are unwittingly aiding and abetting the election of Rubén Díaz Sr.,” Torres said. “It would be one of the greatest tragedies and perversities in the history of Bronx politics to have a Trump Republican represent the most Democratic district in America.”

His rivals generally agree with the latter statement, but there’s been no move to consolidate behind any one candidate.

Mark-Viverito targeted Díaz Sr. with calls to drop out of the race, calling him a “fraud.” But she said her name recognition as the former Council speaker makes her the “most viable candidate” to defeat him.

Díaz Sr., a former state senator whose son is the borough president, has enviable name recognition himself. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Elsewhere in the city, two incumbents — Rep. Carolyn Maloney in Manhattan and Queens and Rep. Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn are facing rematches with challengers who made a strong showing in 2018.

Suraj Patel is again running against Maloney, while Adem Bunkeddeko is mounting another challenge to Clarke — but in both districts, one-on-one contests in 2018 have given way to primaries with multiple challengers this year, making it more difficult for one candidate to break through.

In Brooklyn, Army veteran and DSA member Isiah James is running to the left of Bunkeddeko, while City Council Member Chaim Deutsch has jumped into the race as a conservative Democrat with support in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Besides Patel, Maloney’s challengers include Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison.

Ocasio-Cortez faces her own Democratic challenger, former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, after City Council Member Fernando Cabrera dropped out of the race.

Democratic primaries dominate the calendar in the city, but on Staten Island, Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is up against former prosecutor Joseph Caldarera for the chance to take on freshman Rep. Max Rose.

All the candidates have been forced to adapt with the traditional subway canvassing, door-knocking and hand-shaking off the table.

“We had to adapt rapidly and switch to an all-remote, all digital operation,” said Patel, who suffered his own bout with coronavirus along with his two brothers. His campaign commissioned 100,000 calls to district residents and said it wasn’t hard to convince supporters to host Zoom parties. “People are so bored at home, and want to do something.”

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Singer Amy Grant Undergoes Open Heart Surgery

Lifestyle News

This year has held surprises for everyone. For many musicians, 2020 has been a year full of changed plans.

Concerts and shows have been canceled or postponed, affecting not only the artists but the teams of staff that would have been hard at work and earning money keeping the shows running smoothly.

Perhaps one of the only musicians that has not had to alter their plans too drastically is six-time Grammy winner Amy Grant, 59, who had already decided that she was taking the summer off to attend to some health matters.

Grant was born with a heart defect, partial anomalous pulmonary venous return.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition means “some of the pulmonary veins carrying blood from the lungs to the heart flow into other blood vessels or into the heart’s upper right chamber (right atrium), instead of correctly entering the heart’s upper left chamber (left atrium). This causes some oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to mix with oxygen-poor blood before entering the right atrium.”

Thankfully for Grant, it was an asymptomatic condition, but it remained undiagnosed until just recently. In February, Grant broke the news to her followers.

“Since February is heart health awareness month, I want to send a shout out to my doctor, John Bright Cage,” she tweeted on Feb. 12. “He suggested I have a check up because of my Dad’s heart history.”

“As always, I am feeling great, but the battery of tests he put me through show that I have had a heart condition since birth. The first good news is that I am completely asymptomatic.”

“The second good news is that it’s fixable, so instead of concerts and camping trips this summer, I am going to take care of my heart.”

“Are you taking care of yours?! Please do.”

While hospitals pose their own set of risks at this time, Grant was able to get in for open heart surgery.

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“From Team Amy – with all that is going on in our world that needs our collective prayer, please also join us in praying for Amy this week as she has heart surgery to correct her PAPVR condition,” a post on her Facebook page this week read.

The surgery took place on Wednesday, and by all reports, it was a success. A special thank you to fans was also posted on Amy’s social media accounts.

“She had open-heart surgery to correct a condition from birth the doctors discovered during a heart checkup called PAPVR,” Grant’s representative told People.

“Thankfully the doctor said it could not have gone better. We’re praying for a full and easy recovery over the next days, weeks and months to come.”

Many conditions go undetected until a person has a catastrophic health event, so thanks to the vigilance of Grant’s doctors, she was able to avoid future issues.

Hopefully she will continue to heal quickly, and will soon be able to get back to doing what she does best.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice : NPR

A person stands next to a fence as demonstrators protest Thursday near the White House over the death of George Floyd. The security perimeter is being extended several blocks.

Evan Vucci/AP


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Evan Vucci/AP

A person stands next to a fence as demonstrators protest Thursday near the White House over the death of George Floyd. The security perimeter is being extended several blocks.

Evan Vucci/AP

The people are continuing to be kept away from the People’s House.

An expanded security perimeter around the White House will be in place for several more days, even as the mayor of Washington, D.C., called on the Trump administration to withdraw its extra federal law enforcement and military presence from the city.

Fencing around Lafayette Park, just across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., was installed earlier this week amid heightened security measures in response to days of peaceful protests over police treatment of African Americans. Now, according to the U.S. Secret Service, more areas in the vicinity are being closed.

Security fencing has been installed around the entire Ellipse, and extends multiple blocks, to Constitution Ave.

“These closures are in an effort to maintain the necessary security measures surrounding the White House complex,” the Secret Service said in a statement. It says those areas will be closed until Wednesday.

Police and federal forces began pushing protesters back from the White House on Monday night, using shields, billy clubs and tear gas. Attorney General William Barr gave that order after President Trump expressed the desire to walk across the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op. Barr told reporters that some demonstrators had thrown projectiles, and the group was “becoming increasingly unruly.” Forces only expanded the security perimeter after demonstrators refused to move back one block, Barr said Thursday. “We asked three times.”

Barr is among those being sued by the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter for violating their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly. Also named in the suit are President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secret Service Director James Murray. Shutting down the Lafayette Square demonstration “is the manifestation of the very despotism against which the First Amendment was intended to protect,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, Mayor Muriel Bowser has called on Trump to “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city.” Protesters have been peaceful, she said, and she has lifted the city’s state of emergency related to demonstrations.

“We have developed a finely wrought system of coordination with federal partners, and we will continue to work with them to ensure the safety of demonstrations,” Bowser wrote in a letter to the president. “We are well equipped to handle large demonstrations and First Amendment activities.”

Bowser also expressed her concern about unidentified federal personnel patrolling the city. “Our police and incident command have clear channels of communication and roles and it is important to note that these additional, unidentified units are operating outside of established chains of command,” she wrote. “This multiplicity of forces can breed dangerous confusion.”

Bowser added: “Law enforcement should be in place to protect the rights of American citizens, not restrict them.”

Trump administration officials said the perimeter is meant to keep protests from getting too large near the White House and that the administration is eager for the expanded barriers to be removed, according to The Washington Post.

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DC statehood: The US almost tore itself apart to get to 50 states. Can DC make it 51?

Part of Issue #6 of The Highlight, our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.


A decade ago, Washington, DC, was on the cusp of gaining real representation in Congress. DC dwellers — who outnumber the populations of both Wyoming and Vermont — had been able to cast their votes in presidential elections since 1964, but they still lacked any voting power at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Washington has one congressional representative, currently Eleanor Holmes Norton, who can serve on committees but is not permitted to vote.

The proposal back then was this: DC’s nonvoting delegate would be replaced by a full-fledged House member. In exchange, an additional seat would be created, which initially would have gone to a safely Republican part of Utah, balancing DC’s heavily Democratic voter base. In many ways, the deal was a Band-Aid for the problem residents actually want fixed.

DC doesn’t have a vote in Congress because it isn’t a state, and becoming one is a long political ordeal: The last states joined the union 60 years ago, if that gives you an idea of how impossible adding another one seems now.

The 2009 deal, which would have circumvented the statehood process, made it through the Senate but died in the House. Democrats objected to provisions attached to the Senate bill to gut DC’s gun control laws. But Republicans weren’t too happy, either — including Jason Chaffetz, then still a representative from Utah. He didn’t like the trade-off, even though it meant more power for his state. “This whole thing strikes me as political bribery,” Chaffetz complained. “If Washington, DC, is due representation, make that case. … Don’t try and dangle a carrot out there.”

This month, the widespread protests over the death of George Floyd may have helped make that case to the entire nation. After President Trump sent federal National Guard troops to patrol DC, the District’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, seized on the moment to remind Americans of the District’s diminished position.

“We’re the capital city, we’re a federal district, we’re 700,000 taxpaying Americans, and I’m the mayor, governor and county executive all at once,” Bowser told PBS NewsHour this week. Because the long quest for statehood has yet to be fulfilled, she said, “the federal government can encroach on our autonomy” — including taking widely criticized actions this week on DC soil.

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks from a podium with supporters around her and the US Capitol dome in the background.

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks next to Army veteran Bernie Siler and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) at a rally in support of DC statehood on September 16, 2019. “We want everybody across these United States of America to know that we are just like them, we pay taxes just like they do, we send our people to war,” Bowser said.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

The effort for DC statehood has been growing for some time: Residents drive around with license plates that complain about “taxation without representation.” DC statehood bills have been introduced in every Congress since 1965. A standalone House bill on statehood received just one Republican vote back in 1993, the only time the question has come to the floor. Late last year, Congress held its first hearing on DC statehood in more than 25 years. But Chaffetz wasn’t wrong about the state of affairs.

Political bribery is what the creation of states has been all about, with some exceptions. Whenever there’s a desire to create a new state, all Congress has to do is vote for it. But like animals on Noah’s ark, states have historically entered the union in pairs, with lawmakers using new states to maintain the balance of partisan power — or at least try to.

“It was never written down, but it’s not an accident you got states in pairs,” says Louisiana State University historian Jonathan Earle.

A majority of representatives are already co-sponsors of the bill that would make DC a state. In March 2019, the chamber passed a resolution that endorsed statehood. Still, the reality was that statehood for DC — or Puerto Rico, for that matter — didn’t stand a chance. This moment could change national public perception around that.

However, if the House passes a statehood bill, it faces certain death in the Senate, where the Republican majority is adamantly opposed to adding a state where only 4 percent of voters supported Donald Trump in 2016. Democrats view DC statehood as a way to rebalance a Senate and Electoral College that have stymied progressive priorities, and Republicans oppose the idea for that very reason. And public opinion is on their side. More than 60 percent of Americans oppose statehood for DC, according to a recent Gallup poll.

A similar share support statehood for Puerto Rico, according to the same poll. But history has shown that the creation of new states generally involves some form of power-sharing agreement. Right now, the GOP has no incentive to bless the creation of new states that Democrats would surely dominate. “DC and Puerto Rico are both likely to be Democratic states,” says Robert Pierce Forbes, a historian at Southern Connecticut State University. “It’s hard to see what you trade to get even one of them in.”

Insisting on tit for tat is part of a long pattern in American politics. The most recent additions to the US, Alaska and Hawaii, were brought in almost simultaneously in 1959 because one was understood to be Democratic and the other Republican.

Admitting states in ways that preserve partisan balance may sound cynical. The habit grew out of something much uglier. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, Southerners repeatedly blocked attempts to admit Northern free states unless they got a new slave state in return.

The birth of a state has frequently involved wrenching compromise, with the debate turning directly on the question of extending slavery or battles over race. The preservation of power has always been central to the equation.

Making new states wasn’t supposed to be complicated

The Constitution was written to make it easy to achieve America’s deeply rooted ambition to expand. But shortly after the founding, statehood fights devolved into a struggle involving the nation’s original sin of slavery.

What’s known as the new states clause (Article IV, Section III of the Constitution) gives Congress the power to create states with few restrictions. Delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 rejected the idea of imposing a voting requirement beyond the simple majority typically required to pass the House and Senate. Whenever there’s political will to create a state, Congress has free rein to do so.

Typically, Congress first passes an enabling act to allow residents to form a territorial government and propose a constitution. It later passes a law or resolution to admit a territory as a state — nearly always imposing conditions that have involved everything from voting rights, the state’s political rules, language requirements, and, in the case of Utah, a ban on polygamy.

This system worked for the first few decades of the new United States — for settlers, if not the Native Americans they forced out nor enslaved people across the country. Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Mississippi were all admitted shortly after the War of 1812, which, “by removing the threat of the woodland Indians and the Creeks in the South, accelerated both the white settlement of these areas and the alacrity with which Congress acted to incorporate them as states,” writes historian Sean Wilentz.

The nation expanded rapidly, thanks to passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 (which covered much of what we now call the Upper Midwest) and the Louisiana Purchase. That favorable 1803 deal with France brought in land that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rockies, more than doubling the size of the country. “If you had a bona fide amount of settlers, you could apply to Congress,” says Earle. “It worked without a hitch until Missouri applied for statehood in 1819.”

A portrait of Henry Clay and his wife circa 1849.

Henry Clay, pictured with his wife Lucretia Hart Clay in 1849, crafted both the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 as a way to appease slaveholders and abolitionists when new states entered the union.
Liljenquist Family collection via Library of Congress

In 1819, the Senate was evenly divided between North and South, with senators from the 11 states that allowed slavery and an equal number from the 11 free states. Missouri threatened to extend slavery west of the Mississippi River. The following year, House Speaker Henry Clay crafted the Missouri Compromise.

Missouri would enter the union as a slave state, but its admission was coupled with that of the free state of Maine, which until then had been part of Massachusetts. In addition, slavery was banned from any new states north of 36°30’ latitude, a line stretching out from Missouri’s border with the South.

“When that was proposed, it was considered shockingly transactional,” says Forbes, author of The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America. “There was a huge backlash in Maine. There was a famous comment by one legislator that his constituents would rather wait a thousand years for statehood than to take it on condition of bringing in a slave state.”

Southerners weren’t happy about the arrangement, either. Until that time, they had successfully blocked any attempt by Congress to regulate slavery in the states. They recognized that any limits meant its potential abolition. An elderly Thomas Jefferson saw that a “geographic line, coinciding with a marked principle” would forever be a source of irritation. “This momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror,” Jefferson wrote. “I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.”

Statehood was a central front in the battle over slavery

If the idea of coupling free states with slave states was initially shocking, it soon became the norm. Due to Southern fears of being outvoted in the Senate, during the 1830s Michigan had to wait on Arkansas being admitted first. In its 1844 platform, the Democratic Party linked the entry of the vast slaveholding republic of Texas to the organization of the Oregon territory.

“Since control of the Senate, and more broadly the federal government, was vital to preserving the slave system, any change in the balance of free and slave states presented an existential threat to one side or the other,” says Queens College historian Joshua B. Freeman.

The issue remained a tinderbox. After the Gold Rush, California was flooded with settlers and quickly admitted to the union, without having first spent time as a territory. Admitting California required the Compromise of 1850, a “comprehensive scheme” that was again cobbled together by Henry Clay.

The slave trade was abolished in DC, but to appease those who favored slavery, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah officially became territories without reference to it, leaving the question to settlers. In addition, the brutal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it clear that African Americans were still legally considered property even after escaping to free states. Presciently, Free Soil Party co-founder and future Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase said, “The question of slavery in the territories has been avoided. It has not been settled.”

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was a final attempt to maintain sectional balance by organizing two new territories split between the North and South. But its passage only fueled discord and prompted the formation of the anti-slavery Republican Party, with Abraham Lincoln declaring, “The spirit of ’76 and the spirit of Nebraska are utter antagonisms.” The “Bleeding Kansas” border war over whether the territory would become a slave state became an immediate precursor to the Civil War.

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln circa 1860.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraksa Act of 1854 prompted the formation of the anti-slavery Republican Party, of which Abraham Lincoln was a member.
Corbis via Getty Images

Southern secession meant, among other things, that the region was no longer represented in Congress. The party of Lincoln took full advantage, admitting Nevada as a state in 1864 and approving new territories in the North: Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas.

In 1889 and 1890, Republicans solidified their power, admitting as states Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming, while splitting the Dakota Territory into two states. Territories with substantial populations that were perceived as less of a lock for the GOP — Arizona, New Mexico, Utah — had to wait.

“State admission was explicitly used as a partisan tool by Republicans who dominated Congress and wanted to maintain their position,” says Eric Biber, a Berkeley law professor. “Republicans pushed through a number of states to improve their position in the Senate and the Electoral College.”

The remainder of the continental US was admitted as states by the early 20th century — except DC. Long debate over the district’s unique constitutional status — and Southern opposition to enfranchising black voters — kept residents waiting. And admitting the 49th and 50th states required making a new deal to keep both parties on board.

Alaska stops being ignored, while some considered Hawaii a threat

When Trump floated the idea of buying Greenland this summer, part of his motivation was to secure a legacy akin to the one Dwight D. Eisenhower cemented with his admission of Alaska as a state, according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem with that idea — okay, one of the problems with that idea — is that Eisenhower never wanted to admit Alaska.

The Democratic Party started promoting the idea of statehood for Alaska and Hawaii as early as 1916. By the 1950s, polls showed overwhelming approval, leading the GOP to endorse statehood as part of the party’s 1952 platform.

Eisenhower, elected president as a Republican that year, wasn’t convinced. He worried that Alaska would be a “tin cup state,” forever dependent on the federal government for support. “The area was so vast, so uninhabited, so removed from the rest of the nation that it hardly seemed to warrant consideration in his view,” according to Eisenhower biographer Jim Newton.

A photo from 1958 showing a very large American flag held against a building and men on a ladder pinning an additional star to its star field. Several people hang over the roof edge of the building to watch.

Alaskans pin the 49th star to the US flag to celebrate the acceptance of their state into the union, July 1, 1958.
Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Conservatives were worried that Hawaii would be dominated by the West Coast longshoreman’s union, which they viewed as Communist. (A loyalty oath for public officials was a condition of Hawaii’s enabling act.) Southern Democrats disapproved of the nonwhite population of the islands, worrying that Hawaii would send senators of Asian descent who would represent two more votes against filibuster rules that helped them kill civil rights legislation.

“If Hawaii had been settled and primarily populated by Americans from the mainland, there might be no great problem admitting it as a state,” Nebraska Republican Sen. Hugh Butler said at the time. “Unfortunately, that is not the case.” (More bluntly displaying his racist beliefs, Butler also said he didn’t want two lawmakers of Japanese descent in the Senate.)

Given overwhelming public support for admission, Eisenhower decided in the end that a promise was a promise. Lyndon B. Johnson, then the Senate Democratic leader, dropped his opposition to admitting Hawaii as part of his broader switch in favor of civil rights legislation.

Leaders in both parties came to believe it was a fair deal all around, largely because Alaska at that time was Democratic and Hawaii was Republican. “The expectation that Alaska would be a Democratic state forever — how foolish we all are when we make these projections,” says Gerald McBeath, an emeritus political scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Without something for the GOP, Puerto Rico and DC are left to wait

In recent decades, statehood has largely been a backburner issue. Most of the current territories are too small in population to generate serious consideration.

For DC and Puerto Rico, as has been the case with statehood arguments for 200 years now, the question remains what’s in it for the other side. And race remains a factor, if less overtly than in the past: During the 1960s, the chair of the House committee that controlled DC’s purse strings responded to a budget from the city’s first black mayor by sending a truck filled with watermelons. Amid the George Floyd protests this month, the current mayor, Bowser, unveiled a message for President Trump on the city’s streets: She renamed the plaza in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and emblazoned a thoroughfare visible from the executive mansion with a massive, bright yellow mural reading “Black Lives Matter.”

Puerto Rico has held several referendums on statehood, with public opinion split. Statehood might help with the territory’s financial problems, while presumably making it harder to neglect in the wake of natural disasters (or for FEMA officials to commit fraud). Still, there are concerns that statehood would increase the tax bill for residents and corporations and make it harder to maintain Spanish as the dominant language.

In 2017, 97 percent of those participating in a Puerto Rico referendum favored statehood. Turnout was less than 25 percent, however, with the pro-territorial status quo Popular Democratic Party boycotting the vote.

In DC, opinion about statehood is less mixed. A statehood referendum in 2016 drew support from 78 percent of voters. Bowser sees the lack of representation as nothing less than the “denial of our fundamental rights as American citizens” of residents, a majority of whom are people of color, in the “capital of the free world.”

The main hurdle then, as now, is the fact that DC is overwhelmingly Democratic.

In March 2019, the House passed HR 1, a broad election reform bill that included an endorsement of DC statehood. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the package “a terrible proposal” that “will not get any floor time in the Senate.”

If the question of DC or Puerto Rican statehood were ever resolved politically in Congress, it would be a straightforward matter to admit them both, says Biber, the Berkeley law professor. For that to happen without sweeping Democratic majorities, however, something big has to be on the table for Republicans, and after all these years, it’s still not clear what that could be.


Alan Greenblatt is a writer covering politics and policy issues. He has been a reporter for Governing, NPR, and CQ.


Listen to Today, Explained

Residents in the District of Columbia have been living with “taxation without representation” from Day 1. In September 2019, they took their call for statehood to Congress.

Looking for a quick way to keep up with the never-ending news cycle? Host Sean Rameswaram will guide you through the most important stories at the end of each day.

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Trump casts job data as cure-all for a deeply divided America

“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully, George is looking down right now, and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country,’” Trump said. “This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

During a bill signing immediately following his meandering, roughly hour-long series of remarks, when asked about his plan to combat systemic racism, the president indicated he would seek to heal America’s centuries-old, entrenched inequities by reviving an economy that had been shuttered by an infectious outbreak.

“What’s happened to our country and what you now see, it’s been happening, is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations, for the African-American community, for the Asian-American [community], for the Hispanic-American community, for women, for everything,” Trump said. “Because our country is so strong. And that’s what my plan is.”

Although the unemployment rate for white workers dropped nearly 2 percentage points last month to 12.4 percent, the rate of unemployed black workers rose slightly to 16.8 percent in May, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from April.

Vice President Mike Pence, addressing reporters at the news conference, characterized the burgeoning “American comeback” as a “tribute to the strong decisions” Trump made as the coronavirus first began to spread in the U.S.

But appearing Friday afternoon at a listening session with African-American faith and community leaders in Maryland, Pence seemingly broke with the president by predicting improved financial indicators alone were insufficient to solve the nation’s complex issues of race.

“It will not be enough just for us to heal our economy,” he said. “We’ve got to heal that which divides by breaking down the barriers to opportunity to African Americans and any American that has been left behind.”

While the administration had “received encouraging news today,” Pence added, “we want to follow that by listening and learning and putting into practice the things that will heal our land for every American [and] extend equality of opportunity to every American.”

The president’s news conference Friday, which capped a tumultuous week for the White House that began with the violent dispersal of apparently peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, came after Trump had reveled in the unemployment report’s release earlier in the morning.

“Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!” he wrote on Twitter, one of the several self-congratulatory social media posts the president issued in the minutes following its publishing.

Trump paraphrased cable news coverage of the data in subsequent tweets, hailing the addition of 2.2 million jobs to the U.S. economy last month as “INCREDIBLE,” “AMAZING,” and a “stupendous number” that “is a stunner by any stretch of the imagination.”

He also sought to tie the apparent upturn in economic activity to his own electoral fortunes, suggesting without evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden, his prospective Democratic general election opponent, would wipe out whatever gains had been achieved as a result of the country’s gradual reopening.

“Oh no, the Dems are worried again. The only one that can kill this comeback is Sleepy Joe Biden!” Trump wrote.

Biden fired back at the president Friday afternoon during a speech in Delaware on the unemployment data, blasting Trump for invoking Floyd’s death at his news conference.

“George Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’ have echoed all across this nation and, quite frankly, around the world,” Biden said. “For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd, I frankly think it’s despicable.”

Friday’s jobs numbers come after the U.S. recorded a devastating 14.7 percent unemployment rate in April, and outperformed many economists’ dire forecasts that the amount of out-of-work Americans could approach or surpass 20 percent in May.

The report also represents a rare headline this week the White House has been eager to advertise, after contending with condemnation for its use of military force against protesters, scrutiny of the president’s threat to deploy active-duty troops to U.S. cities, and anxiety over polls showing Trump lagging behind Biden in key 2020 battlegrounds.

Despite Trump’s celebratory public posture, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Friday that “this is not the time to be complacent” and called for the passage of additional coronavirus relief legislation to further shore up the economy. The White House and congressional Republicans have been reluctant to embrace another round of federal aid.

“A 13 percent unemployment number is not a time to be joyous, stupendous and stop doing things, because it’s a very strong likelihood things will go down again if there’s no new stimulus,” Schumer told MSNBC, expressing concern that “these numbers will make the president and the Republican Senate complacent.”

Schumer’s prediction quickly proved accurate. Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who serves as an outside adviser to Trump, argued in an interview Friday with POLITICO that “this extremely optimistic jobs report really negates the case for another big multi-trillion dollar spending bill.”

Max Cohen and Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.

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For Bangladesh’s Struggling Garment Workers, Hunger Is A Bigger Worry Than Pandemic : NPR

Garment workers were deemed essential employees during Bangladesh’s lockdown and some resumed work in Dhaka last month.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett


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SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Garment workers were deemed essential employees during Bangladesh’s lockdown and some resumed work in Dhaka last month.

SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

For more than a decade, Sampa Akter worked 12 hours a day at a garment factory in Bangladesh’s capital, sewing denim jeans destined for shopping malls around the world. Earning $95 a month, she’s been able to support her disabled brother, her sister and their parents.

That is, until late March — when her factory closed because of the coronavirus. Bangladesh has confirmed more than 57,000 cases and nearly 800 COVID-19 deaths in a population of 160 million.

Bangladesh’s garment industry is the second-largest in the world, behind China’s. It accounts for about 84% of Bangladesh’s export revenue and is so critical to the economy that sewing machine operators like Akter were declared essential workers, exempt from a lockdown. But many factory owners decided to shut down production anyway, amid declining global orders and fears of infection.

“My factory was shut for six weeks. I fell behind on rent. I couldn’t pay my brother’s medical bills,” Akter, 30, told NPR by phone from Dhaka. “I’m very scared and vulnerable. It’s not only me. All my coworkers are in the same position.”

Akter was among at least 1 million garment workers fired or furloughed by early April — about a quarter of the industry’s Bangladeshi workforce.

Most of Bangladesh’s garment factories, including Akter’s, have since reopened, with support from an $8 billion government stimulus package. In late May, the International Monetary Fund approved $732 million in emergency aid. The European Union has also pledged $126 million.

But three months after Bangladesh discovered its first coronavirus cases, the virus is still affecting global demand. Big fashion brands are still canceling orders.

As a result, Bangladeshi garment workers continue to struggle. Those who’ve gone back to work have often found the same cramped factory conditions that existed before the pandemic. Many face pay cuts — which workers and union representatives warn will be ruinous, leading to poverty and hunger.

Four out of five garment workers are women, who in many cases support several relatives and live from paycheck to paycheck — in a country with no unemployment benefits. Bangladeshi law requires employers to pay severance, but many don’t.

For those workers, a prolonged global recession may prove more deadly than the coronavirus, workers and union representatives say.

Akter’s factory reopened in early May, before the lockdown was lifted on May 31. On the first day back, her manager gathered all the sewing machine operators together.

“He told us we’ll be paid 60% of our salaries for the days we missed,” Akter says. “But he also said global orders have basically stopped, and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to keep paying us at all.”

Like Akter, most furloughed garment workers have been promised some compensation for the days of work they missed while their factories were shut. Unions helped negotiate it. But in Bangladesh, where the average per capita income is $1,750, any pay cut at all could lead to starvation.

Memories of the Rana Plaza tragedy

The last time Bangladeshi garment workers felt such desperation was after the Rana Plaza factory complex near Dhaka caught fire and collapsed on April 24, 2013, killing more than 1,100 people. It was the deadliest disaster in the garment industry’s history.

“When Rana Plaza collapsed, factories were closed for many days. A lot of orders were canceled then, too, and workers were despondent,” Nazma Akter, a former child laborer and now president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, one of the largest union federations in Bangladesh, tells NPR by phone from her office in Dhaka. “But back then, they got full payment.”

Akter — who is no relation to Sampa Akter — says seven years ago, big fashion brands stepped up. They paid full wages to sewing machine operators who couldn’t return to work for several days. They also paid compensation to survivors who’d been injured, and to victims’ families. And they backed a historic overhaul of fire safety measures at factories.

But she says that’s not happening now. Global brands are obsessed with their own economic pain, she says, and are canceling orders in Bangladesh, where they typically don’t have to pay until they take the finished goods. The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said orders have dropped by half, and aren’t expected to bounce back for another year.

“The fashion industry essentially operates on debt, and all of the risk is disproportionately pushed down to manufacturers and borne by the makers of our clothes, who are mostly young women,” says Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO of Remake, a San Francisco-based nonprofit whose goal is to make the fashion industry more humane and environmentally sustainable.

“I’ll die of hunger before I die of this virus”

With an online petition and campaign with the hashtag #PayUp, activists are trying to pressure those brands to pay for whatever they ordered from Bangladeshi factories before the pandemic broke out. Since the petition was launched March 30, organizers say 16 brands have agreed to pay for back orders.

Barenblat names several global brands she alleges have not fully paid their Bangladeshi contractors during the pandemic, including Gap, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Primark and Mothercare.

NPR contacted those brands. Gap and Kohl’s did not respond. JCPenney, which has filed for bankruptcy, said it hopes to make some vendor payments.

In a statement emailed to NPR, Primark CEO Paul Marchant says his company is paying an additional $450 million for orders that were in production through mid-April, and has set up a “wages fund” to make sure workers in Bangladesh get paid. A spokesperson for Mothercare, Ailsa Prestige, wrote in an email to NPR that the company is “working very closely” with its “manufacturing partners,” but didn’t respond when asked for specifics.

“Everyone is hurting,” says Barenblat. “I have a lot of empathy for that. But these brands have a lot more money than garment workers, and some of them are even eligible for [Western] government bailout funds.”

Through its diplomatic missions abroad, the Bangladeshi government is also pushing Western retailers to restore orders that have been canceled or suspended. In a phone call with her Swedish counterpart, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reportedly got a promise that Swedish companies would stop canceling orders, and similar pledges came from Dutch diplomats.

H&M, Adidas and Nike are among brands that have agreed to pay for back orders totaling some $7.5 billion. As factories reopen, they’re fulfilling those orders.

But the future remains uncertain.

Akter, the garment worker, says that when her factory reopened, her supervisor handed out masks. There’s a new hand-washing station installed at the entrance.

But her sewing machine is still stationed just a few inches from the one next to it. There’s no social distancing, and that’s the least of her worries, she says.

She just hopes her factory stays open.

“I need to work,” Akter says. “I’ll die of hunger before I die of this virus.”

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Biden Loses Support from Nat’l Police Groups as Anti-Police Sentiment Grows

Could Joe Biden be losing support from national police groups? A report from Politico says the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee could face an uphill battle with a group that in the past had his back.

The Thursday article from Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki lays out why Biden always has been a favorite of law enforcement: the former vice president has “long prided himself on being a union-friendly Democrat with a good relationship with rank-and-file cops.”

This apparently hadn’t changed much despite the Democratic Party’s move to the left on issues of law enforcement.

However, the fissures are beginning to show to a greater extent over the death of George Floyd — particularly given that Biden appears to now be using police as a rhetorical punching bag.

Biden spoke in Philadelphia on Tuesday in his first major public address that didn’t involve a remote segment from his Wilmington, Delaware, basement. The speech was essentially a soft relaunch of his campaign; while Biden-watchers could glean little new out of the address, there was a more jagged edge to his attacks, particularly as it pertained to policing.

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According to The New York Times, Biden told an audience at City Hall that the United States needed “leadership that can recognize pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time” — a knee, it didn’t take much guessing, that he was implying was being provided in concert by law enforcement and President Donald Trump.

While Biden decried violence and looting, you could probably have guessed what was to come shortly thereafter.

“Nor is it acceptable for our police, sworn to protect and serve all people, to escalate tension, resort to excessive violence,” he said.

Biden has also called for a national police oversight commission to be established in his first 100 days in office, something that won’t be greeted with unmixed delight down at the precinct.

Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations — which acts as an umbrella group for national Police Benevolent Association chapters across the nation — didn’t have a positive assessment of where Biden was at the moment.

“Clearly, he’s made a lot of changes the way candidates do during the primary process, but he kept moving left and fell off the deep end,” Johnson told Politico.

He also took an unveiled jab at Biden’s senescence.

“For Joe Biden, police are shaking their heads because he used to be a stand-up guy who backed law enforcement,” Johnson said. “But it seems in his old age, for whatever reason, he’s writing a sad final chapter when it comes to supporting law enforcement.”

The fact that this is coming from the National Association of Police Organizations is telling. Police tend to be a right-of-center group for reasons that don’t necessarily need explaining. However, as Caputo and Korecki report, NAPO endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012 due to Biden’s presence on it.

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There have been other fissures before the primary process and Biden’s shift left, obviously. The rise of anti-police movements such as Black Lives Matter — and the Democrats’ embrace of those movements — have been difficult for police unions to swallow. At the same time, the police officer constituency has moved right.

“There are two evolutions in two directions. On law-and-order issues, Biden was right of center: the ’94 crime bill, the Brady law and enhanced penalties. But as time has gone by, his positions have moderated, moderated, moderated to where we are today, where he would not be considered a law-and-order guy in the sense that law enforcement sees it,” said Jim Pasco, both the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police and the former in-house lobbyist for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, where he worked with Biden on the crime bill.

That crime bill has become one of Biden’s biggest weaknesses among progressives, who view the tougher penalties it imposed as having caused mass incarceration among minority communities. The bill isn’t something that he’s disavowed, but it’s pretty far down on his resumé and in small font with a lot of qualifiers.

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And then there’s the matter of the police electorate, which — like most of America — is becoming more polarized.

“Also, as time has gone by, the law enforcement community — especially the rank and file — has become far more conservative,” Pasco said. “Today, the FOP and other labor groups are far less open to addressing gun control issues, things that traditionally they supported and that Biden worked very closely and successfully with them on.”

As Caputo and Korecki point out, these are issues that are going to help him massively with younger progressive voters. The question they leave unaddressed is how that calculus will work in the general election.

Counting on progressive voters to turn out didn’t work in the Democratic primaries, where early victories for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in caucus states quickly became as useless as Zimbabwean currency when it became clear getting progressive voters to the ballot box was a Sisyphean task.

Other progressives fared worse; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished third in her home state.

If these progressive voters do come out, it’s already clear who they’ll be casting a ballot for, assuming Marianne Williamson doesn’t harness some love-energy and mount a third-party spoiler run.

Public sector union voters do turn out, however, and that’s a problem when they’re not voting for Democrats like they usually do.

Law enforcement officers qualify as blue-collar voters, the demographic that tipped the 2016 election to Trump, particularly in the Midwest.

Biden wasn’t supposed to repeat that mistake; he was a working-class Catholic with a strong Pennsylvania organization. Pushing him further left does him no favors in trying to recapture those flyover states that cost the Democrats big four years ago.

And then there’s the law-and-order factor.

The Trump campaign has been quick to condemn the death of George Floyd, but also the rioting that’s ensued and the politicians that have elided over it, if not excused it.

We’ve seen the physical damage the riots and looting have caused, but the economic damage is yet to be assessed.

Given the dire economic conditions brought about by the novel coronavirus, any compounding of the problem by the riots will fall squarely back on those who didn’t think stopping them was that important.

If the law enforcement community turns on Biden en masse, the law-and-order issue is going to loom a lot larger than it looks now.

On this and so many other issues, Biden has been able to walk a tightrope between appealing to the working-class voters Hillary Clinton lost and to the progressive youth vote the Democrats view as the future.

What we saw in Philadelphia — and what we hear coming out of the National Association of Police Organizations — could be an indication that Flying Wallenda act is about to end in a fall.

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