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For the week 6/15-6/19
[Posted 10:00 PM ET, Friday]
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I print out a ton of stuff over the week, some of it going into a pile for future reading, and so I just picked up a piece from the Wall Street Journal from back in May…a book review by Harold Holzer of Ted Widmer’s “Lincoln On The Verge”.
I was struck by Holzer’s first two paragraphs.
“When Abraham Lincoln began his fraught inaugural journey to Washington in 1861 with an ‘affectionate farewell’ to his neighbors in Springfield, Ill., the orator had been silent for months. As if animated by both destiny and reality, he summoned divine assistance without venturing specifics about how he planned to save the fractured country.
“The president-elect had kept a tight lid on future policies since his nomination. Refusing either to conciliate or coerce Southern states rushing headlong into secession. Lincoln maintained what contemporaries called a ‘masterly inactivity.’ Publicly, he said nothing that could incite additional Southern states out of the Union, disappoint fellow antislavery Republicans or inflame conservative Northern Democrats. Privately, he urged congressional allies to resist compromise that might allow slavery to expand into the West. ‘Hold firm,’ Lincoln instructed one, ‘as with a chain of steel.’ The ‘secession winter,’ as Henry Adams dubbed it, called for one of the most delicate political balancing acts in American history.”
Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated March 4, 1861.
Fort Sumter came under fire April 12…and the war was on.
A week ago, Fox News’ Harris Faulkner was interviewing President Trump when the topic of revitalization in black communities came up, as well as the protests then taking place.
Trump: “I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, because he did good. Although it’s always questionable, you know, in other words, the end result.”
Faulkner: “Well, we are free, Mr. President. He did pretty well.”
Trump: “We are free. Well, you understand what I mean? You know, I got to take a pass on Honest Abe, as we call him.”
But we now await events tomorrow, Saturday, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Originally, President Trump’s first campaign rally since the lockdown was to be tonight, June 19, but not knowing the significance of that date, and the history of Tulsa, when confronted with the facts, he rescheduled for the next day.
Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” last Sunday that the president did not know the day known as Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the U.S.
“I’m thankful that he moved it… that was a good decision on his part.”
Scott was asked to clarify if he meant Trump, White House staff and the president’s campaign team were all unaware of the historical connotations of Juneteenth and the Tulsa riots of 1921.
“I’m not sure that the planners on his inner-circle team thought about June 19th, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and race riots. Unless you’re doing a historical check, you probably don’t get those dots connected.”
[For the record, President Trump changed the date of the rally an hour-and-a-half after I had posted my column last Friday night.]
Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a legal bid to stop Trump’s rally over health concerns. Don’t look for a lot of masks among the 19,000 or so likely to pack the BOK Center, let alone the tens of thousands viewing elsewhere in the city, even as Oklahoma hit a new daily high in cases today.
Earlier in the day, President Trump threatened unspecified action against any protesters at the rally, in a warning that his campaign was quick to say was not directed at peaceful demonstrators.
Trump tweeted: “Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!”
Honest Abe, having long fulfilled his duty, must be looking down on all this with a smirk on his face…perhaps a bit bemused. ‘What fools,’ he’s thinking.
Covid-19 death tolls (as of tonight)
South Korea 280
Hong Kong 4
Let those last three sink in…and then look at the U.S. Beyond pathetic, my fellow Americans.
Today, Friday, saw a record high for new cases, globally (181,000), and the highest U.S. single-day case count since May 1st (33,539), with new daily highs in the likes of Arizona, Texas and Florida, among others. But we were told the coronavirus is just going away, according to the White House and the man in the Oval Office, President Trump saying Wednesday, “The numbers are very miniscule and it’s dying out.”
According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of infections these days are in the Americas, with Brazil having a stunning count for new cases today of over 55,000! [Another 1,200+ deaths.]
--According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on more than 1.7 million coronavirus cases and 103,700 deaths from Covid-19, people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes were hospitalized six times as often as otherwise healthy individuals infected with the novel coronavirus during the first four months of the pandemic, and they died 12 times as often. The data is consistent with earlier reports showing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on people with underlying medical conditions.
Also, the report highlighted the disease’s stark disparities between whites and minority groups.
Among nearly 600,000 who were sickened and for whom the CDC has race and ethnicity information, 33 percent of patients were Hispanic, although they make up 18 percent of the U.S. population; 22 percent were black, while they constitute 13 percent of the population; and 1.3 percent were Native American or Alaskan Natives, nearly double their representation in the overall population. [Ed. See the issues with the Navajo Nation.] [Lena H. Sun / Washington Post]
--Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of critically ill Covid-19 patients in what scientists said is a major breakthrough in the pandemic.
Trial results announced on Tuesday by researchers in Britain show the generic drug used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, cut death rates by around a third among the most severely ill coronavirus patients admitted to hospital, specifically those on ventilator. For those patients requiring only oxygen, deaths were cut by about one fifth, according to preliminary findings released by the WHO.
This makes it the first drug proved to save lives in fighting the disease.
Countries are rushing to ensure that they have enough of it on hand, although medical officials say there is no shortage. The World Health Organization said the drug should be reserved for serious cases in which it had been shown to provide benefits and that the research was at last providing “green shoots of hope” in treating the virus.
Russia said it already uses dexamethasone to treat patients with the coronavirus, but does not view it as a panacea, the RIA news agency cited Russia’s health ministry as saying on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the WHO said on Wednesday that testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for Covid-19 patients had been halted after results from other trials showed no benefit.
--Chinese state media is reporting that China says a vaccine under development will not be ready until at least 2021.
According to Reuters, there are more than 10 possible vaccines currently being tested around the world, but so far, no vaccines globally under development have passed what is known as phase 3 – large-scale trials with thousands of participants.
China’s efforts are actually being hindered by the lack of new infections in the country.
But Britain, China and the U.S. all have vaccines they hope to move into phase 3 later this summer. To accurately test effectiveness, however, volunteers exposed to the virus need to organically interact with infected people, both those showing and not showing symptoms.
So with few new cases in China, and dropping rates in Europe, researchers say they are rushing to begin testing and may need to try their vaccines in other countries with larger outbreaks.
For China, being first with the vaccine would symbolize it is going to be the leading power in the world, according to China experts.
--Beijing ordered all schools to close in the city in an escalation of containment measures as it struggled to halt a new coronavirus outbreak which has already spread to neighboring provinces. But by week’s end, the government said it had contained the outbreak, after at least 137 had tested positive and more than 1,200 flights were canceled Wednesday alone.
Initially, chopping boards used for imported salmon at the huge Xinfadi market were found to have traces of the coronavirus. The boards, used for imported salmon, led to China halting imports from European salmon suppliers, although experts say the fish itself is unlikely to carry the disease, and later both Norwegian and Chinese authorities said the salmon was not the source of the outbreak.
--Mexico reported a record 5,662 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and an additional 667 deaths on Thursday. The government has admitted the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
--Germany reported that more than 600 employees of a slaughterhouse tested positive for coronavirus this week, highlighting the risk of a new spike in infections even as the pace of the pandemic is slowing across Europe. New infections had fallen to around 300 a day in recent weeks in Germany.
--California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care, after growing concerns that an increase in coronavirus cases has been caused by residents failing to voluntarily take that precaution.
But the order came a week after Orange County rescinded a requirement for residents to wear masks and as other counties across California were debating whether to join local jurisdictions that had mandated face coverings. “The Resistance” will do whatever it wants to.
--The Trump administration said on Tuesday it would extend existing restrictions on non-essential travel at land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico due to continued risks from the coronavirus. “Essential” travel and trade will continue flowing.
Feb. 26…President Trump: “We have 15 (cases)…in a few days going down to close to zero.”
--Vice President Mike Pence…Your Coronavirus Health Expert:
Op-Ed / Wall Street
“In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.
[Ed. I already want to throw up.]
“While talk of an increase in cases dominates cable news coverage, more than half of states are actually seeing cases decline or remain stable. Every state, territory and major metropolitan area, with the exception of three, have positive test rates under 10%. And in the six states that have reached more than 1,000 new cases a day, increased testing has allowed public health officials to identify most of the outbreaks in particular settings – prisons, nursing homes and meatpacking facilities – and contain them.
[Ed. as if those are the only places where increasing cases are occurring.]
“Lost in the coverage is the fact that today less than 6% of Americans tested each week are found to have the virus. Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000 – down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May. And in the past five days, deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago – and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting.
[Ed. where do I begin? The vice president is lying to the ‘nth degree. As I noted above, for various reporting reasons, we’ve long learned the figures for Sat. thru Mon. are artificially low, and then we have ‘Catch-up Tuesday.’ So here are the case numbers in the U.S. Tues.-Thurs. 25,450…26,701…27,924. And the Tues.-Thurs. deaths…849…809…747 (with several states not reporting Thurs.). So just tell the truth, Mr. Vice President!]
“The truth is that we’ve made great progress over the past four months, and it’s a testament to the leadership of President Trump. When the president asked me to chair the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the end of February, he directed us to pursue not only a whole-of-government approach but a whole-of-America approach. The president brought together major commercial labs to expand our testing capacity, manufacturers to produce much-needed medical equipment, and major pharmaceutical companies to begin research on new medicines and vaccines. He rallied the American people to embrace social-distancing guidelines. And the progress we’ve made is remarkable….
[Ed. The president has NOT embraced his own guidelines, Mr. Vice President! Do you really think we are such idiots?! You eschew them as well! You two could set an example to the 40% who refuse to get it, but you have purposefully chosen not to…and for this, history will not treat you well.]
“The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.”
[Ed. Your op-ed piece is a disgrace, Mike.]
Editorial / Washington Post
“Every handbook for a public health crisis emphasizes that open, transparent communication is extremely important. Officials must maintain credibility and public trust. They must not ‘over-reassure’ and should be candid about risks and unexpected events. By this measure, Vice President Pence, who heads the White House task force on the coronavirus pandemic, has been a case study in irresponsibility.
His op-ed published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal rightly called attention to some progress in fighting the virus, but also included a burst of happy talk….
“True, a second wave of the pandemic has not yet begun – but the first wave is still dangerously rolling. Mr. Pence’s soothsaying came the day after nine states – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas – either reported new single-day highs in case counts or set a record for seven-day averages. Hospitalizations in Texas are now at a peak….
“Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump earlier this week misleadingly claimed that higher case counts are the result of more testing. In fact, while there is more testing, data show positive test rates over the past 14 days are rising, too: 7.9 percent in Texas, 11.3 percent in South Carolina, 14.6 percent in Alabama and 17.7 percent in Arizona. The United States have been stuck at more than 20,000 new cases a day for nearly three months.
“Mr. Pence has never shied from over-reassurance. ‘We’re ready for anything,’ he proclaimed March 2. They were not ready when the supply chains broke. On March 9, he said, ‘the risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public remains low, and the risk of serious disease among the American public also remains low.’ Since then, 119,348 Americans have died. In April, Mr. Pence said the pandemic could be ‘largely in the past’ by early June. Here we are in mid-month – and it is not. On June 15, Mr. Pence said cases in Oklahoma – scene of Mr. Trump’s upcoming campaign rally – had ‘declined precipitously.’ On June 13, Oklahoma reported its highest one-day total since the pandemic began.
“The pandemic is still raging. Try as they might to spin a recovery story, Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump destroy their own credibility by ignoring reality. The American people know this is not ‘cause for celebration.’”
--The Bolton Book:
First off, former national security adviser John Bolton is no hero. No patriot. He’s a disgrace for not appearing before the House and Senate committees looking into impeachment and there is reason for both parties to despise the man today for holding off on what he knew, as he awaited the sale of his book, the timing of the release not exactly as intended in terms of the impact on potential sales either, Bolton long superseded by others who came forward to speak of working in the White House under Donald Trump.
But in “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” Bolton reports his former boss attempted to coerce Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, though this was hardly Trump’s only potential foreign misstep.
The pressure campaign on Ukraine served as the basis for the president’s impeachment in the House last year. Democrats had pushed for Bolton to testify before the Senate but lost that effort and Trump was acquitted without new witnesses being called.
According to one of the reported key excerpts in the Wall Street Journal, Trump turned to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting last year and asked for a favor: China should increase its purchase of American-grown farm products because aiding American farmers would help him win the upcoming 2020 election.
“The U.S. would not impose tariffs, but (Trump) again returned to importuning Xi to buy as many American farm products as China could.
“Xi agreed that we should restart the trade talks, welcoming Trump’s concession that there would be no new tariffs and agreeing that the two negotiating teams should resume discussions on farm products on a priority basis. ‘You’re the greatest Chinese leader in 300 years!’ exulted Trump, amending that a few minutes later to ‘the greatest leader in Chinese history.’
“Subsequent negotiations after I resigned did lead to an interim ‘deal’ announced in December 2019, but there was less to it than met the eye.
“Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests. Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security. I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.
“Take Trump’s handling of the threats posed by the Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE. (Commerce Secretary Wilbur) Ross and others repeatedly pushed to strictly enforce U.S. regulations and criminal laws against fraudulent conduct, including both firms’ flouting of U.S. sanctions against Iran and other rogue states. The most important goal for Chinese ‘companies’ like Huawei and ZTE is to infiltrate telecommunications and information-technology systems, notably 5G, and subject them to Chinese control (though both companies, of course, dispute the U.S. characterization of their activities).
“Trump, by contrast, saw this not as a policy issue to be resolved but as an opportunity to make personal gestures to Xi. In 2018, for example, he reversed penalties that Ross and the Commerce Department had imposed on ZTE. In 2019, he offered to reverse criminal prosecution against Huawei if it would help in the trade deal – which, of course, was primarily about getting Trump re-elected in 2020.
“These and innumerable other similar conversations with Trump formed a pattern of fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency. Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different….
“That same month, on the 30th anniversary of China’s massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Trump refused to issue a White House statement. ‘That was 15 years ago,’ he said, inaccurately. ‘Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.’ And that was that.
“Beijing’s repression of its Uighur citizens also proceeded apace. Trump asked me at the 2018 White House Christmas dinner why we were considering sanctioning China over its treatment of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim people who live primarily in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province.
“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China.
“Trump was particularly dyspeptic about Taiwan, having listened to Wall Street financiers who had gotten rich off mainland China investments. One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpies and say, ‘This is Taiwan,’ then point to the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office and say, ‘This is China.’ So much for American commitments and obligations to another Democratic ally….
[Ed. in case you were wondering if the United States would come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of an attack. Of course we won’t. I’ve written that for years.]
“In today’s pre-2020 election climate, Trump has made a sharp turn to anti-China rhetoric. Frustrated in his search for the big China trade deal, and mortally afraid of the negative political effects of the coronavirus pandemic on his re-election prospects, Trump has now decided to blame China, with ample justification. Whether his actions will match his words remains to be seen. His administration has signaled that Beijing’s suppression of dissent in Hong Kong will have consequences, but no actual consequences have yet been imposed.
“Most important of all, will Trump’s current China pose last beyond election day? The Trump presidency is not grounded in philosophy, grand strategy or policy. It is grounded in Trump. That is something to think about for those, especially China realists, who believe they know what he will do in a second term.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who served as the lead House impeachment manager in Trump’s trial, wrote “Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.
“They had a lot to lose and showed real courage,” Schiff tweeted about the witnesses who did testify in front of the House. He continued that Bolton “saved it for a book.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released a statement, saying if Bolton’s accounts are “accurate, this was another extraordinary abuse of American foreign and national security policy.”
He said the “House will continue to look for answers wherever we may find them about the President’s abuses and corruption. I will be consulting with the Speaker and my fellow chairs on next steps in this matter.”
“What we’ve just learned makes it even more difficult to understand why Ambassador Bolton did not testify during the House’s impeachment inquiry. If President Trump urged the Chinese leader to help with his reelection, just as he pressed the Ukrainian leader to do, the American people deserved to know that information,” the statement said.
Joe Biden also released a statement, writing, if it is true that Trump “directly asked Xi Jinping, China’s leader, to help him get re-elected” that is “not only morally repugnant, it’s a violation of Donald Trump’s sacred duty to the American people to protect America’s interests and defend our values.”
Peter Baker / New York Times
“Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations ‘to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,’ citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. ‘The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,’ Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William Barr….
“While other books by journalists, lower-level former aides and even an anonymous senior official have revealed much about the Trump White House, Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.
“Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. Even top advisers who position themselves as unswervingly loyal mock him behind his back. During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, according to the book, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, ‘He is so full of shit.’
“A month later, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president’s North Korea diplomacy, declaring that there was ‘zero probability of success.’
“Intelligence briefings with the president were a waste of time ‘since much of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers.’ Mr. Trump likes pitting staff members against one another, at one point telling Mr. Bolton that former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had once referred to Nikki Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, by a sexist obscenity – an assertion Mr. Bolton seemed to doubt but found telling that the president would make it.
“Mr. Trump said so many things that were wrong or false that Mr. Bolton in the book regularly includes phrases like ‘(the opposite of the truth)’ following some quote from the president. And Mr. Trump in this telling has no overarching philosophy of governance or foreign policy but rather a series of gut-driven instincts that sometimes mirrored Mr. Bolton’s but other times were, in his view, dangerous and reckless.
“ ‘His thinking was like an archipelago of dots (like individual real estate deals), leaving the rest of us to discern – or create – policy,’ Mr. Bolton writes. ‘That had its pros and cons.’”
President Trump called Bolton a “liar” who “broke the law” in response to the unflattering allegations.
“He is a liar,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal, “everybody in the White House hated John Bolton.”
In another interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, Trump was again questioned about Bolton’s claim that he sought political help from the Chinese leader.
Trump replied that “nobody has been tougher” on China than he has.
The president also told Hannity that Bolton “broke the law” by authoring content that is “highly classified.”
“He did not have approval,” Trump said of Bolton.
And you’ll see a series of tweets blasting the former national security adviser down below.
Wednesday night, the Justice Department issued an emergency order to block the book’s publication.
Today, a federal judge questioned the practical impact of such an order, given the book has been shipped around the world and its details made public through press reports.
“The horse, as we used to say in Texas, seems to be out of the barn,” U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said at the hearing.
“It certainly looks difficult…what I can do about those books all over the country,” the judge added, noting that according to Bolton’s publisher, hundreds of thousands of books had already shipped in advance of the June 23 publication date.
As of tonight, the judge had not issued a final ruling.
Fareed Zakaria / Washington Post
“For those who have been willing to support Trump because of particular policies they have always wanted – Supreme Court judges or tax cuts – Bolton’s book makes clear the cost is high. Trump will pay any price, make any deal, bend any law to assure his own survival and success.”
--Chief Justice Roberts said back in 2018, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” after Trump verbally criticized a federal judge. This week, Roberts, and in one case, Justice Neil Gorsuch, proved it.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, a reprieve for nearly 800,000 recipients known as “dreamers.”
The 5 to 4 decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by the court’s four liberals, the second, stunning defeat for the president (the other I write of down below).
But the decision on immigration was likely to elevate the issue once again for the presidential campaign, even though polls show sympathy for those who were brought here as children and have lived their lives in this country. Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The administration has tried for two years to wind down President Obama’s 2012 executive order that protected the Dreamers from being deported. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised the new Trump administration to end it, saying it was illegal.
But as lower courts have found, Roberts said the administration did not follow procedures required by law, and did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”
So Roberts was telling the administration to try again. Thursday, many wondered if the president would wait until after the election to do so.
Trump then tweeted Friday morning:
“The Supreme Court asked us to resubmit on DACA, nothing was lost or won. They ‘punted’, much like in a football game (where hopefully they would stand for our great American Flag). We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil the Supreme Court’s….
“….ruling & request of yesterday. I have wanted to take care of DACA recipients better than the Do Nothing Democrats, but for two years they refused to negotiate – They have abandoned DACA. Based on the decision the Dems can’t make DACA citizens. They gained nothing!@DHSgov”
--In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, President Trump said he wouldn’t have handled his walk to St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., any differently. The decision to forcibly remove a crowd of peaceful protesters before he walked through Lafayette Square to a fire-damaged church and posed for photos drew broad condemnation earlier this month, while garnering praise from some conservative backers.
He said he made the decision to visit the church “very quickly,” revealing a clue as to why his top military advisers later said they didn’t know the full details of the event and expressed regret about attending.
He said he held up a Bible for pictures instead of praying or reading a verse because it was “very, very noisy” from protesters several blocks away.
--House Democrats and Senate Republicans on Wednesday took up competing proposals to reform policing in the United States.
The House Judiciary Committee began debating the House proposal, which includes measures to make it easier to prosecute officers in criminal and civil court, to limit the transfer of military-grade weapons and bar “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.
The bill will pass in committee, but Republican members will introduce amendments to the proposed legislation, which would delay its approval.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the panel’s ranking Republican, said, “The vast majority of police officers do a great job. They are the individuals who put on their uniforms every single shift and risk their lives.
“I hope today that you will embrace our thoughtful amendments that we plan to offer.”
Senate Republicans, led by South Carolina’s Tim Scott, unveiled their own proposal on Wednesday, one day after President Trump signed an executive order instituting new federal incentives to bolster police training and create a national database to track misconduct.
Like Trump’s order, the Senate proposal avoids mandates, like an outright ban on chokeholds, but instead offers financial incentives to encourage compliance among local police departments.
The Senate bill requires departments to share disciplinary actions taken against officers when they apply for new jobs, but it doesn’t establish a national tracking database like the House version does.
Scott said the Senate bill prioritizes three main areas – data collection, training and police transparency.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed the bill will come to the Senate floor next week, but he’s been vocal about his opposition to the House version, which he said is “typical Democratic overreach” that attempts to “control everything in Washington.”
Some say the two sides are so far apart on key issues that no final action is likely until after the July 4 holiday, at best.
Earlier, President Trump signed an executive order which encourages police departments to employ the latest standards for use of force, improve information sharing so that officers with poor records are not hired without their backgrounds being known, and add social workers to law enforcement responses to non-violent cases involving drug addiction and homelessness. Trump reiterated that he opposed calls to “defund the police” by reimagining or even dismantling police departments.
Trump said in the Rose Garden Tuesday, “Americans want law and order, they demand law and order.”
--In a Politico interview conducted Thursday, but released today, President Trump appeared to show concern when it came to winning back the presidency and retaining a GOP Senate majority. And the key to mitigating that concern, he said, was to keep every Republican senator in line, issuing a stern warning for anyone daring to break ranks.
“If they don’t embrace, they’re going to lose, because, you know, I have a very hard base. I have the strongest base people have ever seen,” Trump told Politico. Potential targets of this threat include Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said she hasn’t decided whether to support Trump in 2020, and Michigan GOP Senate candidate John James, who has told voters he disagrees with Trump on “plenty, plenty of issues.”
--No doubt President Trump at his rally in Tulsa at some point will say, “And we now have VA Choice!”
And not a soul in the audience will know that today, we hit the 1,500 mark in the number of Veterans who died in VA facilities due to the coronavirus. Some choice.
--President Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, is due to release an unflattering tell-all memoir about him titled “Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” set for release July 28, timed to come out a month before the Republican National Convention.
The memoir will reportedly reveal how she supplied the New York Times with confidential documents to print a sprawling investigation into Trump’s personal finances.
Mary Trump, 55, is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr., the president’s older brother, who died in 1981 at the age of 42, having struggled with alcoholism; his premature death caused by a heart attack linked to his drinking.
The bad blood between Mary and The Donald goes back at least 20 years to a lawsuit filed by her and her brother against their uncle and his siblings.
“Bolton’s book, which is getting terrible reviews, is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad. Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction. Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”
“Wacko John Bolton’s ‘exceedingly tedious’ (New York Times) book is made up of lies & fake stories. Said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him. A disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war. Never had a clue, was ostracized & happily dumped. What a dope!”
“President Bush fired him also. Bolton is incompetent!”
“When Wacko John Bolton went on Deface the Nation and so stupidly said that he looked at the ‘Libyan Model’ for North Korea, all hell broke out. Kim Jong Un, who we were getting along with very well, went ‘ballistic’, just like his missiles – and rightfully so….
“….He didn’t want Bolton anywhere near him. Bolton’s dumbest of all statements set us back vey badly with North Korea, even now. I asked him, ‘what the hell were you thinking?’ He had no answer and just apologized. That was early on, I should have fired him right then & there!”
“Biden got failing grades and polls on his clueless handling of the Swine Flu H1N1. It was a total disaster, they had no idea what they were doing. Among the worst ever!”
“Joe Biden was a TOTAL FAILURE in Government. He ‘bungled’ everything that he touched!”
[It is so idiotic for the president to bring this line up now and then. According to the CDC, 12,500 died in the U.S. from H1N1 and, I have to keep repeating, I proved to you how it didn’t impact Americans’ lives in the least.]
“Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!”
“I will be releasing a new list of Conservative Supreme Court Justice nominees, which may include some, or many of those already on the list, by September 1, 2020. If given the opportunity, I will only choose from this list, as in the past, a Conservative Supreme Court Justice…
“…Based on decisions rendered now, this list is more important than ever before (Second Amendment, Right to Life, Religious Liberty, etc.) – VOTE 2020!”
“@FoxNews is out with another of their phony polls, done by the same group of haters that got it even more wrong in 2016. Watch what happens in November. Fox is terrible!”
“As President of the United States, I am asking for a legal solution on DACA, not a political one, consistent with the rule of law. The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again.
“The DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than EVER anticipated. Nevertheless, I will only act in the best interests of the United States of America!
“The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Census, and others, tell you only one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court. If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and…
“…Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!”
“Why are the Democrats allowed to make fake and fraudulent ads. They should be called out. They did nothing when they had the chance. I have done FAR more than any President in first 3 ½ years!”
“The Democrats are doing totally false advertising. They haven’t done NOTHING for years, including when Sleepy Joe was V.P., and they now have a Fake ad that my China Deal is losing us jobs. Opposite, & China is paying us $BILLIONS. Also, I LOVE Seniors & protect Preexisting C’s.”
[The above two tweets were Friday, after both Facebook and Twitter called out two ads that either promote the Trump campaign or that the president had retweeted.]
“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out…
“…of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests…
“…We have already had ticket requests in excess of 200,000 people. I look forward to seeing everyone in Oklahoma!”
[Ed. And I look forward to watching.]
“Big crowds and lines already forming in Tulsa. My campaign hasn’t started yet. It starts on Saturday night in Oklahoma!”
[Your campaign never ended, Mr. President.]
Wall Street and the Economy
President Trump told Fox News Wednesday the United States would not close businesses again as several states reported rising numbers of new coronavirus infections. “We won’t be closing the country again. We won’t have to do that.”
We know this. It’s just a fact. We’ll just keep plowing ahead with reopening, like other parts of the world, pandemic be damned, though schools and sports could face renewed shutdowns, as is already happening with Major League Baseball and some of its Florida training camp facilities tonight.
In fact the entire world is reopening. Europe is accelerating its moves, with restaurants in Paris opening again, for example, while most nations remove their border restrictions. But the UK is taking a major risk in its reopening actions, not being as far along as the rest of the continent in beating back the virus.
So first the U.S. economic data on the week. May’s strong retail sales report, up 17.7% over April (an all-time best) when an increase more like 7% was expected, was a most pleasant surprise, up 12.4% ex-autos as well, while April’s drop was revised from -16.4% to -14.7%, still an all-time worst, and -8.3% in March.
But while President Trump crowed about the figure, May’s reading was still -6.1% below year ago levels. Nonetheless good news.
May industrial production rose less than expected, 1.4%, while May housing starts also fell short of forecasts, 974,000 vs. expectations of 1.09 million, and 891,000 in April.
Add it all up and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow indicator for the second quarter improved to -45.5%. As I’ve been noting, it will continue to improve as the data through June comes in. But we’ll still end up at a worst-ever level.
Next week we get our final look at first-quarter growth, and important news on consumption.
But we also had a weekly report on jobless claims that marked the 13th straight week with numbers over 1 million, another 1.508 million for the week ended June 13. Again, to reiterate, the record for a single week until this tragic run was 660,000 during the height of the Great Recession and until the nationwide lockdown, a normal week for this category was in the range of 210,000 to 220,000, week in and week out, befitting the strong economy.
We also have to note that despite the better-than-expected May payrolls data from two weeks ago, when the economy added a record 2.5 million jobs, but after a record loss in April of 20.7 million…you have the reality that state and local governments have cut more than 1.5 million positions in the past two months, and this sector accounts for about 13% of the labor force and 11% of aggregate output, according to economists at Natixis CIB Americas.
And I’ve been reporting down below in “Street Bytes” for weeks now on the growing job cuts in corporate America, unless you are being hired by the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Target and others of its ilk.
So when Morgan Stanley economists said this week that the global economy is in a new expansion cycle and output will return to pre-coronavirus crisis levels by the fourth quarter, I could not disagree more, but very much hope I’m wrong.
“We have greater confidence in our call for a V-shaped recovery, given recent upside surprises in growth data and policy action,” economists led by Chetan Ahya wrote in a mid-year outlook research note on June 14.
Predicting a “sharp but short” recession, the economists said they expect global GDP growth will trough at -8.6% year on year in the second quarter and recover to 3.0% by the first quarter of 2021.
Morgan Stanley noted three reasons for why the recession will be short:
Official support isn’t likely to ease anytime soon, with both central banks and finance ministries pumping money into their respective economies.
Risks to their outlook include developments with the coronavirus and the vaccine.
“In our base case, we assume that a second wave of infections will occur by autumn, but that it will be manageable and result in selective lockdowns,” the economists wrote, citing a scenario where a vaccine is broadly available by summer of 2021.
“In contrast, we assume in our bear case that we re-enter into the strict lockdown measures implemented earlier this year, resulting in a double-dip,” they wrote.
Well, you can’t have it both ways.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy faces potentially significant long-term damage from higher unemployment and a wave of small business failures due to the coronavirus pandemic despite recent signs of an economic rebound.
“Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely,” Powell told the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday.
Powell also warned that because recent job losses have fallen hardest on low-income workers, including minorities and women, the current downturn risked aggravating longstanding socio-economic disparities in living standards.
The Fed, after cutting interest rates to essentially zero in mid-March, has introduced a series of emergency lending programs to purchase debts of companies, cities and states.
And then in another move on Monday, the central bank said it would begin purchasing individual bonds as part of a custom-built, diversified market index, regardless of whether companies want the Fed to own their debt.
If the virus remains “reasonably well under control,” Powell told lawmakers he expected the economy to move through three phrases. The first one, a sharp contraction, could then lead to the second – a bounce back marked by large increases in re-employment.
Powell said it was the possible the economy was in the beginning of that second phase, but he warned that the third phase of recovery would require Americans to regain their confidence engaging in activity that requires close indoor contact or large outdoor gatherings. That will no doubt take some time.
Powell also called for more fiscal aid to reinforce the recovery, a la the stimulus check and/or payroll protection programs.
Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren, echoing Chairman Powell, said on Friday that more fiscal and monetary support is likely needed, Rosengren repeating his view that the U.S. unemployment rate will likely be “at double-digit levels” at the end of 2020 and cautioned against reopening the economy too quickly after the end of lockdowns.
“So far, in the United States efforts to contain the virus have not been particularly successful,” Rosengren said in remarks prepared for a virtual event organized by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “This lack of containment could ultimately lead to a need for more prolonged shut-downs, which result in reduced consumption and investment, and higher unemployment.”
This afternoon, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said during a Twitter chat moderated by CBS News: “The recovery will take longer than we had hoped only a few months ago… Many jobs are going to take a long time to come back.”
Kashkari said the federal government needs to keep supporting Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus and may not get back to work for a while. Unemployment benefits can help get money to jobless people who need to keep paying their bills, and capping those benefits at workers’ previous pay could “eliminate the disincentive to return to work,” he said.
Kashkari also cautioned that banks could take a hit if the downturn is prolonged. “I am concerned the longer this goes on, the more losses banks will face,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that following talks in Hawaii between representatives of the U.S. and China in Hawaii (details below), China plans to accelerate purchases of American farm products to comply with the phase one trade deal.
Specifically, the world’s top soybean importer intends to step up buying of everything from soybeans to corn and ethanol after purchases fell behind due to coronavirus disruptions.
A source also told Bloomberg that the Chinese government has asked state-owned agricultural buyers to make all efforts to meet the phase one agreement. China’s commerce ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had committed to honor all of its commitments under the trade deal. [If true, the rest of the meeting did not go well, it needs to be pointed out.]
But then also on Thursday, President Trump renewed his threat to cut ties with China, a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress he did not see decoupling the U.S. and Chinese economies as a viable option.
Trump tweeted: “It was not Ambassador Lighthizer’s fault (yesterday in Committee) in that perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, but the U.S. certainly does maintain a policy option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China. Thank you!”
Lighthizer had said: “Do I think that you can sit down and decouple the United States economy from the Chinese economy? No, I think that was a policy option years ago. I don’t think it’s a…reasonable policy option at this point.”
Expect a Lighthizer tell-all someday. “The president was truly a freakin’ idiot.”
Europe and Asia
A light week on the euro region data front, though next week we’ll get flash PMIs for the eurozone.
Eurostat did report that May inflation rose just 0.1% annualized, vs. 0.3% in April and 1.2% a year earlier. But ex-food and energy, May inflation was 1.2%.
Brexit: Leaders from Britain and the European Union agreed on Monday that talks on their future relationship should be stepped up to clinch a deal, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggesting an agreement could be reached in July with “a bit of oomph.”
But businesses on both sides are being told to prepare for a no-deal outcome that some fear would complicate trade and hurt jobs, just as the recovery from the pandemic is taking hold.
“I don’t think we’re actually that far apart but what we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations,” Johnson said, adding that he had told the EU’s top representatives that there was a need to “put a tiger in the tank” of the talks. “The faster we can do this the better, and we see no reason why you shouldn’t get this done in July.”
But in actuality, despite Johnson’s happy talk, which he is known for, negotiators have made very little progress towards a trade pact and the talks have all but stalled over issues such as fair-competition guarantees* and fishing rights.
*Say, for example, a heavily subsidized industry or business would have a competitive advantage over its Euro or British competitors.
Separately, the Bank of England unveiled another big stimulus for the UK economy as it tries to limit the scale of the coronavirus recession.
In a statement Thursday, it said it was increasing its government bond-buying program by a further $125 billion. The intention is to keep a lid on interest rates in financial markets and keep money flowing through the financial system.
The UK economy is expected to shrink by 20% in April alone as a result of the country’s lockdown with so many sectors shuttered, as the country is set for one of its deepest recessions ever, and we’re talking the Bank of England has a 326-year record book. Specifically, the BoE said the UK faced its worst recession since 1706.
Lastly, Ireland’s Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green parties struck a deal to form a new coalition government on Monday that if ratified by members will make Fianna Fail leader Micheal (sic) Martin prime minister, with Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar returning as prime minister in 2022 for the second half of the government’s five-year term.
This brings the two dominant parties together for the first time, each having swapped power throughout the nation’s history since emerging from opposing sides of Ireland’s 1920s civil war. The Greens provide a majority in the fractured parliament.
Turning to Asia…China released some key data for May. Industrial production rose 4.4% year-over-year, less than expected, while retail sales fell 2.8% yoy, after a 7.5% decline in April. Fixed asset investment (big infrastructure projects like rails, highways, airports), fell 6.3% for the first five months of the year. [All courtesy of the National Bureau of Statistics]
So reopening has not been easy and consumers, for one, are still leery to a large extent. Premier Li Keqiang, who is in charge of the economy, said the external environment for China’s trade will remain grim and complex in the second half of the year.
--Stocks regained their mojo, despite the Dow falling the last three days, with the average finishing up 1.0% to 25871, while the S&P 500 added 1.9% and Nasdaq 3.7%, the latter finishing up all five days and now, at 9946, back near its new closing high of 10020.
--U.S. Treasury Yields
6-mo. 0.16% 2-yr. 0.19% 10-yr. 0.69% 30-yr. 1.46%
Essentially unchanged on the week, while in Europe, the yield on the Italian 10-year fell to 1.35% from 1.44%, and Spain’s 10-yr. yield declined to 0.48% from 0.59%. The German bund is at -0.42%.
--OPEC forecast on Wednesday a gradual recovery in global demand for oil, which has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis, and said record supply cuts by producers were already helping to rebalance the market.
In a monthly report, OPEC said demand would decline by 6.4 million barrels per day in the second half of 2020, less than the drop of 11.9m bpd in the first six months of the year.
To tackle the drop in demand, OPEC and its allies like Russia agreed to record supply cuts that started on May 1, while the U.S. was pumping less.
In its own monthly oil-market report, the International Energy Agency said that while the world’s demand for crude will drop by 8.1 million barrels a day this year – slightly less than forecast in last month’s report – demand in 2021 will rebound by a record 5.7 million barrels a day.
China’s oil demand in April was almost back at levels seen a year previously and Indian demand climbed in May.
The IEA forecast oil demand at 91.7 million barrels per day in 2020, 500,000 bpd higher than its estimate in May’s report.
If that resurgence persists and oil-producing nations stick to their plans to constrict global oil supply, “the market will be on a more stable footing by the end of the second half [of 2020],” the IEA said in its report. But the IEA added that while OPEC’s decision to extend their historic production cuts through July will help speed up the oil market’s rebalancing, “we should not underestimate the enormous uncertainties” the market still faces, the agency said. [Look at China reinstituting lockdowns in parts of Beijing this week, while canceling hundreds of flights.]
Stripping out jet-fuel demand, global oil demand should reach pre-crisis levels in mid-2021, the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said Tuesday. “The key issue is when people will start to fly,” he said, adding that “if there is a solution to the coronavirus problem and the economy rebounds as foreseen, we may well see in the near term oil demand go back to pre-crisis levels.”
This afternoon, Baker Hughes reported in its weekly rig count that the U.S. figure fell 13 to 266, its lowest since the service company began keeping records in 1940! The decline was the rig count’s 15th consecutive decline and seventh consecutive record low.
The price of West Texas Intermediate, however, closed the week at $39.43, best since early March. The decline in the rig count, while not good for employment, is good for the price of crude as its more supply removed from the market, at least temporarily.
--Meanwhile, the carnage in the energy industry continues. Oilfield services provider Schlumberger announced it is booking a charge to earnings of up to $1.4 billion for an accelerated restructuring and new job cuts.
The company said it was able to reduce headcount by 25% when operating remotely, and will reach a 50% reduction on some wellsites.
--BP PLC is writing down up to $17.5 billion of its assets and might leave some of its oil and gas in the ground because of lower energy prices and weakened demand amid the global crisis caused by the pandemic.
The British energy giant said the crisis is having a lasting economic impact, leading to fragile energy demand and sinking prices. The virus will also accelerate the world’s shift to a lower carbon economy, BP said, with governments directing some of their stimulus packages to climate-friendly initiatives.
This is the largest write-down by an oil major in years and it is also tied to BP’s newly-appointed chief executive’s plans to reshape the company; Bernard Looney being promoted in February. Looney wants to prepare for a low-carbon future by making BP more nimble and leaner.
--Southwest Airlines said Wednesday, after seeing a modest improvement in passenger demand and bookings, that it has updated its operating targets for June and provided a better outlook for July.
For June, the airline now expects a 70% to 75% decrease in operating revenue and a decline of 40% to 50% in capacity, resulting in a load factor of 40% to 50%. It had expected operating revenue to drop 80% to 85% and capacity to shrink 45% to 55%, resulting in a load factor of 35% to 45%.
For July, the carrier expects operating revenue to dive 65% to 70% and capacity to fall 25% to 35%. The resulting load factor is expected to be 45% to 55%, it said.
The company still expects to go through $30 million to $35 million in cash, daily, for the second quarter.
--Delta Air Lines said it plans to resume service to Shanghai via South Korea’s Incheon International Airport from both Detroit and Seattle once a week, subject to government approval.
The plan comes as the Chinese government approved U.S. carriers to fly 4 weekly flights to China.
--The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Dickson, acknowledged on Wednesday at a tense Senate Commerce Committee hearing that Boeing Co. and the FAA both made mistakes in developing the 737 MAX jet, but rejected senators’ accusations the FAA was “stonewalling” probes after two fatal crashes.
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 following the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people, triggering multiple investigations into how the plane was certified as safe.
Senator Ted Cruz accused Dickson of speaking in a passive voice as a way of “avoiding responsibility” after Dickson told him, “Mistakes were made.”
“So unknown somebodies made unspecified mistakes for which there were no repercussions,” Cruz said. “What mistakes were made and who made them?”
Dickson answered, “The manufacturer made mistakes and the FAA made mistakes in its oversight.”
Dickson referred to the MCAS flight control system that repeatedly pushed down the jet’s nose in both crashes as pilots struggled to gain control. “The full implications of the flight control system were not understood as design changes were made,” he said.
Senator Roger Wicker, the Republican committee chairman, told Dickson, “Your team at the FAA has attempted deliberately to keep us in the dark.”
Wicker and ranking Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell, introduced bipartisan legislation that would strengthen FAA oversight of Boeing’s designs.
--Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. announced it would cut about 22% of its corporate workforce, or 2,100 jobs, in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged the global travel industry. The company is also extending previously announced furloughs, reduced hours, and corporate pay cuts for up to an additional three months.
“Never in Hilton’s 101-year history has our industry faced a global crisis that brings travel to a virtual standstill,” CEO Christopher Nassetta said in a statement.
Hilton’s corporate staff consisted of about 9,600 workers globally, while total employees were 173,000 at the end of 2019. Larger rival Marriott has also furloughed thousands of employees as bookings dried up.
--Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said on Tuesday it is extending the suspension of global cruise voyages to include all voyages embarking between August 1 and September 30, 2020, for its three cruise brands – the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The voyage cancellations exclude September Seattle-based Alaska voyages. But Norwegian is also cancelling select voyages through October 2020, including Canada and New England sailings, due to travel and port restrictions.
--Carnival Corp. posted a $4.4 billion quarterly loss as the pandemic crippled its business. The cruise operator expects to burn through cash at the rate of $650 million a month for the rest of the year.
The company said it is pursuing further waivers on debt repayments due next year and is speeding up the sale of some of its ships.
Then late today, the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said in a statement that its members would voluntarily extend the suspensions on cruises from U.S. ports until Sept. 15 or later if necessary.
--Registrations of newly purchased Tesla vehicles have plunged in the key state of California over the past two months, according to data from research firm Dominion Enterprises and Tim Higgins of the Wall Street Journal; down 37% in April and May, a look at how lockdown measures affected domestic demand.
In California, sales fell 16% in April to 6,260 vehicles, compared with a year ago, and then dropped 70% to 1,447 in May. Industrywide, registrations in the state fell 52% each month compared with the same periods a year earlier, Dominion’s report said.
No problemo for Tesla shares, however, as they rose to over $1,000, closing the week at that very level as well, $1,000.60.
--BMW will not extend the contracts of 10,000 contract workers, as reported by Reuters today, as the German luxury carmaker seeks to reduce capacity due to the coronavirus crisis.
--Apple announced it was reopening 75 stores across the U.S. this week, including 10 in New York City, though some stores will offer curbside service only, while several New York stores are by appointment only. Another big retailer selling gadgets and electronics, Best Buy, previously reopened many of its physical stores.
Microsoft stores, on the other hand, will remain closed as it takes a “measured and cautious” stance in reopening stores.
And then as noted above, Apple suddenly announced it was reclosing stores it had reopened in North and South Carolina, Florida and Arizona due to the spikes in coronavirus cases.
--McDonald’s said demand improved significantly from April to May as many of its restaurants began serving diners, especially in the United States. Overall comparable sales fell 20.9% in May vs. a 39% fall in April.
The company also said it would hire about 260,000 restaurant staff in the U.S. this summer, as stores reopen their interiors. McDonald’s normally hires thousands of workers each summer, drawing high-school and college students for the job.
--Quaker Oats announced that it is retiring Aunt Jemima from packaging on its brand of syrup and pancake mixes because it’s “based on a racial stereotype.” It acknowledged that its prior work to update the character was “not enough.” She became the face of the breakfast product line way back in 1890.
Mars-owned Uncle Ben’s said it plans to change its rice but that it didn’t know “what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities.”
Conagra Brands announced Wednesday that it was reviewing the brand and packaging on Mrs. Butterworth’s, with some associating the shape of the brand’s syrup bottles with the offensive “Mammy” racial caricature.
And B&G Foods Inc., the parent company of Cream of Wheat, announced that it too was conducting a review of its packaging.
But this late entry…Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the owner of Eskimo Pie, announced it would change the name on its product.
Now discuss amongst yourselves.
--Target on Wednesday said it would increase its starting wage for employees to $15 an hour next month and pay a $200 bonus to its hourly store and distribution workers for working during the pandemic.
The Minneapolis-based retailer in September 2017 first said it would raise the starting hourly wage to $15 this year, and last raised the level to $13 a year ago. It has been paying a $2 hourly premium to employees for the past few months amid the spread of the coronavirus.
“These investments help ensure that team members can build meaningful careers, take care of themselves and their families and contribute to building our communities through their work inside and outside of Target,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Melissa Kremer.
Target’s investments in employee pay and benefits and investments in safety measures have impacted the bottom line even as sales have jumped.
--Smithfield Foods was the first company to warn in April that the coronavirus pandemic was pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” Tyson Foods also sounded the alarm, saying that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from the nation’s supply chain as plants were being forced to close because of outbreaks.
But that same month, while Americans were worried about thoughts of millions of pigs being euthanized over supply chain issues, Smithfield was sending China 9,170 tons of pork, one of its highest monthly export totals to that market in the past three years, as reported by the New York Times. Tyson exported 1,289 tons of pork to China, the most since January 2017.
In all, there was a record amount of pork produced in the U.S. – 129,000 tons.
The data compiled by Panjiva, a supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence, and the Department of Agriculture, should be embarrassing to an industry that trumpeted its ability to keep plants operating during the pandemic. Some of this meat could have been stocking shelves in April and May. There were periods when my own grocery stores suddenly didn’t have meat products, often for days at a time.
Basically, the industry fed us a lot of bull, in lobbying the Trump administration to intervene with state and local officials to keep the plants open despite the virus spreading in some of the facilities, but they were keeping the plants open to protect their long-term investments in exporting to a country that is vital to their growth.
So far, over 25,500 meatpacking workers have tested positive and 89 have died, according to the Food & Environment Reporting Network.
--Australia’s unemployment rate hit 7.1% in May, a 19-year high, as the country faces its first recession in nearly three decades due to the impact of the pandemic. The government believes the jobless rate will hit 10% by June and stay elevated through 2021.
--T-Mobile US blamed the cause of an embarrassing nationwide outage on Monday on a leased fiber circuit failure from a third-party provider in the Southeast.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile said in a securities filing late Wednesday that it planned to spend about $300 million more than initially projected on merger-related costs with Sprint, which it acquired in April, primarily on severance expenses, to accelerate expected cost benefits from the deal.
T-Mobile didn’t specify the number of jobs being cut, but the company ended 2019 with 53,000 workers, while Sprint reported 28,500 employees in early 2019.
T-Mobile did say at the same time it was looking to hire 5,000 workers in new positions like retail and engineering over the next 12 months.
Rival AT&T Inc. has also detailed plans to lay off thousands of workers as it moves through a cost-cutting effort launched late last year, 3,400 jobs in the coming weeks.
--Kroger Co. said shoppers are stockpiling less than when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the U.S., but that sales remain elevated as people cook more at home.
The biggest U.S. supermarket operator said Thursday that it does expect sales to taper off and consumer demand to moderate as restrictions ease.
Kroger said sales rose 30% in March and increased more than 20% in April and May as consumers hoarded paper products, cleaning and shelf-stable products during the initial phase of the pandemic.
Sales at stores open at least 15 months, ex-fuel, rose 19% for the quarter ended May 23, compared with a year earlier. Kroger’s digital sales rose 92%.
The company said it has spent more than $830 million on additional pay and health services for its employees, including free testing for Covid-19. It has also hired more than 100,000 additional workers.
--Shares in Yum Brands fell Thursday as Twitter attacked Yum owned Taco Bell, after the chain allegedly fired an employee for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask.
Taco Bell then announced later yesterday that it does not prohibit its employees from wearing a BLM mask and was working closely with an Ohio franchise where the former employee said he was fired.
Denzel Skinner, the fired employee, said he had worked at the restaurant for eight years.
Last week, Starbucks said it was allowing its baristas and other employees to wear Black Lives Matter T-shirts and pins, reversing its policy on the matter.
--A former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods was sentenced to more than three years in jail for his role in a canned tuna price-fixing conspiracy involving three major companies, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Christopher Lischewski was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine in addition to serving a 40-month term.
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement that the sentence will serve as a deterrent to wrongdoing at top corporate levels.
The Justice Department said the court found that the three-year conspiracy affected hundreds of millions of dollars in canned tuna sales.
Bumble Bee pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $25 million fine. StarKist Co. was fined $100 million.
Chicken of the Sea was shielded from criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.
Mob Boss Charlie the Tuna has been eluding authorities, his last known location said to be in the North Atlantic, though he could just as easily be in your cupboard or on a store shelf, which would only be appropriate.
--The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Monday that it would push back the next Oscars ceremony to April 25 from Feb. 28, citing ongoing coronavirus concerns. Other entertainment shows such as the Golden Globes will probably follow suit.
China: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yang Jiechi, a Communist Party Politburo member, met in Hawaii on Wednesday to discuss a range of issues, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang and, despite Beijing’s announcement that the dialogue had been “constructive” with agreement to improve worsening bilateral ties, Yang told Pompeo that China was determined to push ahead with controversial national security legislation for Hong Kong, saying it was purely an internal matter.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said after: “China’s determination to push for a national security law in Hong Kong is unshakeable. China resolutely opposes the U.S. interference in Hong Kong affairs and the G7 foreign ministers releasing a statement on Hong Kong.”
Yang also told Pompeo that Taiwan was an inalienable part of China, and expressed opposition to a new law over Xinjiang signed by President Trump on the same day.
Beijing then warned of countermeasures in response to the U.S. legislation calling for sanctions over the repression of China’s Uighur Muslims, demanding that Washington stop interfering in its affairs.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement the United States must bear all the consequences of any responses from Beijing and urged Washington to stop harming China’s interests.
[President Trump signed a measure punishing Chinese officials for imprisoning more than one million Muslims on the same day Bolton’s book excerpts were published, curiously, after the former national security adviser alleged Trump encouraged Xi to build the internment camps.]
India said it would take part in a trilateral meeting with Russia and China next week, India’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, days after Indian and Chinese troops clashed on a remote Himalayan border, leaving at least 20 Indian soldiers dead, and an unknown number of Chinese casualties, as they haven’t released their own figures.
Soldiers reportedly brawled with sticks, bats, and bamboo sticks studded with nails in the late night confrontation in the Ladkh region on Monday.
However, no shots were fired as both sides, by previous agreement, do not allow armed soldiers in the immediate area.
But India said some soldiers were “beaten to death,” during the fight. Others fell or were pushed into a river.
Temperatures were sub-zero in the high-altitude terrain. It was the first deadly clash between the two sides in the border area in at least 45 years. Both sides blamed each other.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government and institutions are being targeted by ongoing sophisticated state-based cyber hacks. Morrison said the attacks were widespread, covering “all levels of government” as well as essential services and businesses.
He declined to identify a specific state actor and said no major personal data breaches had been made.
I placed this under the China category, because, gee, I wonder who it could be?
North / South Korea: Out of nowhere, on Tuesday North Korea blew up a symbolic liaison office near the border which was built to improve ties with the South after Pyongyang threatened to take action if defector groups push ahead with their campaign to send propaganda leaflets into North Korea.
The North Korean army then said it would send troops to demilitarized border units in the latest step towards nullifying inter-Korean peace accords. Pyongyang also said troops would be sent to tourist area Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong industrial park, site of the demolition.
A state media article accused the South of breaking 2018 agreements and behaving like a “mongrel dog” – while the sister of Kim Jong Un accused South Korean President Moon Jae-in of being a U.S. “flunkey.”
Kim Yo Jong, the regime’s new mouthpiece and sister of Kim Jong Un, who has himself remained largely out of sight, lambasted Moon’s recent conciliatory remarks as “sophism full of shamelessness and impudence,” state media reported. Ms. Kim rejected South Korea’s request to send a special envoy for talks, calling the offer a “tactless and sinister proposal.”
Seoul finally lost its patience with Pyongyang as a result of the move. The South has long exercised restraint with its provocative neighbor, in hopes of drawing the North into peace talks. President Moon, who staked his legacy on warming ties with Pyongyang upon taking office in 2017, dropped the pleasantries on Wednesday, chiding the North Korean regime over its “rude and senseless” remarks, a day after Kim’s Orcs blew up the liaison office.
Of Kim Yo Jong’s comments, the Moon administration responded, “We won’t tolerate the North’s unreasonable words and acts anymore,” a presidential Blue House spokesman said. Seoul’s defense ministry warned that the North would pay a price if it undertook military action against the South. Hours later, South Korea’s unification minister abruptly resigned, saying he had failed to meet expectations.
North Korea’s near-term aim appears to be distracting its domestic audience from immediate economic challenges caused by U.S.-imposed sanctions and the spread of the coronavirus, experts say. By labeling South Korea as an enemy, the North can blame any internal dysfunction on an external threat, they say.
Longer term, it appears the North is trying to regain the attention of the Trump administration that it lost after both sides left the Hanoi summit without a deal.
The implosion of the office building in Kaesong has drawn minimal response from the U.S. But the North’s premeditated destruction dragged relations between the two Koreas down to the lowest level in years.
Russia: A Russian court sentenced American Paul Whelan to 16 years in prison on spying charges, a sentence he rejected as political.
The Moscow City Court on Monday read out the conviction of Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum security prison colony.
Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. The U.S. Embassy denounced Whelan’s trial as unfair, pointing out that no evidence has been provided.
Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“President Trump has sought warmer ties with Russia since taking office, but the relationship hasn’t improved much. A reminder of why came on Monday when a Moscow judge found Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine from Michigan, guilty of spying…
“The President’s Russia policy has been uneven at best. His plan to withdraw some U.S. forces from Germany is an undeserved gift to Mr. Putin, as was his declaration that he wants the Russian to join the G-7 despite the opposition of other democratic leaders. Yet he has confronted the country over its violation of arms-control treaties and, despite recent controversies, provided Ukraine with critical assistance in its fight against Moscow.
“Mr. Trump has made returning Americans held hostage abroad a priority – to the point of imposing sanctions on NATO ally Turkey in 2018 over its detention of an American pastor. The Whelan conviction is a Russian thumb in the eye of America and Mr. Trump.”
Editorial / Washington Post
“Russia ‘feels impotent in the world, so they’re taking political hostages.’ So shouted the American Paul Whelan from inside a glass cage in a Moscow courtroom Monday – and we’re inclined to agree with him. The 50-year-old former Marine, who was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor on espionage charges following a secret trial, is being all-but-openly wielded by the regime of Vladimir Putin to obtain the freedom of one or more prominent Russian criminals imprisoned in the United States – a tactic until recently more typical of regimes such as Iran and North Korea.
“Unlike Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer convicted in U.S. federal court of seeking to supply weapons to Colombian narcoterrorists, or Konstantin Yaroshenko, found guilty of conspiring to deliver tons of Colombian cocaine to Africa for transshipment to the United States, Mr. Whelan lacks a plausible profile as either a criminal or a spy. An employee of a Michigan auto parts manufacturer, he was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding in December 2018 when a Russian acquaintance handed him a flash drive he thought contained tourist photos. Soon after, he was arrested and charged with receiving classified documents.
“Mr. Whelan was held in conditions the U.S. Embassy rightly described as ‘shameful,’ denied phone contact with his family for the first 16 months of his detention as well as treatment for a hernia until it required emergency surgery last month. His trial was a sham, with ludicrously concocted evidence. Mr. Whelan told reporters he was identified by the Russians as being a brigadier general, even though he was dishonorably discharged from the Marines years ago. ‘Do I look like a brigadier general?’ he shouted Monday from his cage. No, he doesn’t.
“Both the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced Mr. Whelan’s treatment and conviction, with Mr. Pompeo saying ‘the United States is outraged.’ But it’s not clear that applies to President Trump, who just weeks ago was agitating to have Russia rejoin the Group of Seven nations. The president has rarely, if ever, criticized the regime of Mr. Putin, and though he imposed sanctions on NATO ally Turkey when it wrongly imprisoned an American pastor, he has had nothing to say about Mr. Whelan.
“Mr. Whelan’s attorney said Monday that an exchange for his client already is being discussed. If so, Russia stands to obtain the same benefit from Washington recently extracted by Iran: the release of criminals convicted of serious offenses in exchange for innocent Americans, who were seized precisely for that purpose. Perhaps that’s the most humane response to the case of Mr. Whelan, who certainly does not deserve to spend years in a Russian labor camp. But perhaps also Mr. Trump could, at least, stop lobbying to include Mr. Putin in summit meetings of the world’s leading democracies.”
The above was published Tuesday evening. As of tonight, President Trump still hasn’t said anything. Disgraceful.
And if the above is not enough, Putin blasted the United States’ response to the coronavirus, even though Russia has been releasing false statistics on its crisis.
“We are working rather smoothly and emerging from this situation with the coronavirus confidently and, with minimal losses… But in the United States that is not happening,” Putin told state TV. Russia’s political system had handled the crisis better than its U.S. counterpart, said Putin, because authorities at federal and regional level had worked as one team without disagreements unlike in the United States.
“I can’t imagine someone in the (Russian) government or regions saying we are not going to do what the government or president say,” said Putin. “It seems to me that the problem (in the United States) is that group, in this case party interests, are put above those of society’s as a whole, above the interests of the people.”
Russia is holding a nationwide vote on amending the constitution from June 25-July 1, that, if approved, would allow the 67-year-old Putin, in power since 1999, to serve two more six-year terms in the Kremlin after 2024, when he would under current laws be obliged to step down.
Iran: Britain, France and Germany said on Friday they would not back U.S. efforts to unilaterally trigger the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran, but said they wanted talks with Tehran over its ongoing violations of a 2015 nuclear accord.
Under Iran’s 2015 deal with world powers (including Russia and China) to accept limits to its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, a UN weapons embargo is due to expire in October. The U.S., which exited the deal in 2018, says it wants to extend the embargo.
To be continued….
Syria: I’ve written how the Syrian economy is in shambles after nine years of war, with hundreds of thousands dead, cities leveled and millions turned into refugees.
But now it is facing a dollar shortage in neighboring Lebanon where Syrians must do their banking, chronic corruption and mismanagement, the economic devastation of Covid-19 and waves of sanctions.
“The situation is going bad to worse. The conflict is concentrated in some areas, but the economic situation is now everywhere. And it’s dramatic,” Corinne Fleischer, the World Food Program’s country director in Syria, said in an interview this week with Reuters.
The United States levied new sanctions this week against 39 Syrian officials, companies and “foreign enablers”, including President Bashar Assad’s British-born wife, whom Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “one of Syria’s most notorious war profiteers.”
Libya: It seems that the battle for Tripoli has been won, bolstering the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Faye al-Sarraj, as eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar abandoned his 430-day campaign to capture the capital.
But Libya’s war is far from over, and concern is mounting that the major OPEC producer could go the way of Syria, prompting new waves of migration and militancy on Europe’s doorstep.
The Ministry of Local Government estimates that about 125,000 homes have been damaged in southern Tripoli, where Haftar’s forces were holed up for months. The fighting forced roughly 85,000 families, or nearly half a million people, to flee.
It also dragged in foreign powers…with Russia, the UAE and Egypt backing Haftar’s march from his eastern stronghold of Benghazi, and Turkey intervening on behalf of the Tripoli government 1,000 km to the west. Both sides deployed Syrian and other mercenaries. The U.S. and Europe have failed in the push for peace talks thus far.
Libya’s crude exports have fallen by more than a million barrels a day since Haftar shut down the biggest oil ports in January. Proceeds normally flow through the National Oil Corp. to the Tripoli-based central bank, but Haftar wants the regulator to allocate more funds to the east.
--Presidential tracking polls….
Gallup: 39% approve of Trump’s job performance, 57% disapprove; 85% of Republicans approve, 39% of independents (May 28-June 4).
Rasmussen: 47% approve, 51% disapprove (June 19).
--In a new Fox News Poll, Joe Biden leads President Trump by a 50-38 percent margin, up from Biden’s 8-point lead last month (48-40).
Independents prefer Biden over Trump by 39-17 percent, but another 43 percent are undecided or supporting someone else.
Biden has a 19-point lead among women, and is up 79 points among blacks.
Trump is up 41 points among white evangelical Christians and 9 points among rural voters. But in 2016, he won the former group by 64 points and the latter by 27.
61 percent disapprove of how Trump is handling race relations. This is important because 81 percent are concerned about racism and another 64 percent perceive racism as a major threat to the stability of the country.
--In a new Quinnipiac University national poll of registered voters released Thursday, Joe Biden defeats President Trump 49 to 41 percent. This compares to a May 20 national survey that had Biden leading 50-39. In the new poll, independents are split with Biden leading Trump 43-40 percent.
Women back Biden 59-33, while men back Trump 51-38.
Black voters back Biden 82-9, Hispanic voters back Biden 57-31, and white voters back Trump 50-42 percent.
On the economy, Trump leads 51-46 percent.
On race relations, Biden leads 58-36.
Asked about honesty, voters say 61-35 percent that Trump is NOT honest.
President Trump’s overall job approval rating is 42 percent, while 55 percent disapprove, essentially unchanged from May’s 42-53 split.
By a 59-38 margin, people believe that all voters in the United States should be allowed to vote by mail in November due to the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats favor it 90-8, independents 57-41, but Republicans oppose mail-in balloting by a 73-23 margin.
--Donald Trump carried Iowa by 9 percentage points in his 2016 contest against Democrat Hillary Clinton. But according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, Trump leads Joe Biden by just 1 point – 44% to 43%.
A March Iowa poll had Trump leading 51% to 41%.
Perhaps most worrisome for Trump, just 22% of Iowans say the nation is on the right track. 63% say it’s on the wrong track, including 45% of Republicans.
--Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was a favorite to be Joe Biden’s running mate until the tragedy in Minneapolis with George Floyd and its aftermath in the city, said Thursday she took herself out of consideration to be his number two.
“After what I’ve seen in my state, what I’ve seen across the country, this is a historic moment, and America must seize on this moment,” Klobuchar told MSNBC.
“I truly believe – as I actually told the vice president [Biden] last night when I called him – that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket,” the senator said.
“If you want to heal this nation right now… This is sure a hell of a way to do it. And that is just what I think after being through this in my state,” Klobuchar said.
Sen. Kamala Harris has to be the frontrunner now. Selecting Stacey Abrams would be a disaster. Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) should still be considered.
--Bradley Tusk, longtime Michael Bloomberg adviser, says in the latest episode of Yahoo Finance Electionomics podcast. “If Mike Bloomberg put in $100 million or $300 million (to Joe Biden’s campaign), would that be welcome? I’m sure it would be.”
Bloomberg endorsed Biden when he dropped out and said he will do whatever he can to defeat President Trump in November. But he might direct it more at congressional races than the Biden campaign, such as key Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.
--Michael Morell and Mike Vickers / Washington Post
“When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in March 1933, the challenges he faced were profound – the depths of the Great Depression, calls for radical political change, and the rise of fascism in Germany and Japan. Should former vice president Joe Biden become president in January 2021, the issues he would face will be far greater than those faced by FDR – greater, arguably, than those faced by any president in more than a century.
“The list of issues includes the novel coronavirus pandemic, a resulting economic depression, mounting climate challenges, deep political divisions at home (and their underlying causes, including systemic racism) and, where our expertise lies, a more dangerous world than the one Biden faced when he left office in 2017. Arguably, only Abraham Lincoln, with Southern secession waiting, faced a tougher challenge when taking office than would Biden.
“At the top of the list of the global issues is China. We are in multi-front competition with China over advanced technologies and over influence around the world. The stakes – our economic future and who sets the rules of the global system – are high, and China does not play fairly. It subsidizes industries; steals intellectual property; forces technology transfer; strong-arms nations to pursue policies that benefit China; uses military rather than diplomatic means to resolve territorial disputes; and interferes covertly in the politics of other countries.
“And China is winning. It has pulled ahead in key areas of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and quantum technologies, and its influence in the world is stronger than ever. It is in a better position today than it was in January 2017. We have made no progress in positioning ourselves to compete with China or in rolling back any of China’s malign policies.
“Next on the list is Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has found a tool – information warfare – to undermine our democracy that is more cost-effective than all the weapons of his Soviet forebears. He is using this tool aggressively. His logic is simple. By weakening our democracy, he hopes both to weaken U.S. leadership in the world, giving him room to exert more influence, and to undermine the calls for democracy in his own country, which is his greatest fear….
“This is the only time in history when we have been attacked by a foreign power and not come together as a nation. Rather, we have come apart.”
Morell and Vickers talk about Iran.
“In just a few months, Iran has cut its breakout time to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon from well over a year to only two to three months.”
And North Korea.
“In 2017, North Korea advanced its program via a thermonuclear test and at least three intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The Japanese government has said publicly that North Korea can now fit a nuclear weapon to a missile.”
Biden would also inherit an Islamic State on the rebound, and a politically and militarily stronger Taliban.
First and foremost, should Biden get elected, he knows the first thing he must do is rebuild our alliances.
--Fred Hiatt / Washington Post
“What does it say about a political party when its chief strategy is to prevent as many people as possible from voting – and its leader admits as much?
“That is where Republicans find themselves heading into the 2020 election.
“For the latest, breathtaking example of this pathology, look at Iowa. On June 2, Iowa held a highly successful primary, with record turnout – and Republicans in the state legislature immediately initiated action to ensure the success is not repeated in the fall.
“Yes, not repeated. For many Republicans, a high-turnout, no-chaos election is a result to be avoided at all costs.
“In fairness, not all Republicans. The secretary of state who engineered Iowa’s primary success, Paul Pate, is also a Republican. To allow for safe voting in a time of pandemic, Pate mailed every registered voter an absentee ballot request form – not a ballot, mind you, just a request form – and extended the early voting period from 29 days to 40 days.
“ ‘My goal was to protect Iowa voters and poll workers while finding ways to conduct a clean and fair election,’ Pate told the Des Moines Register.
“Well, there was your mistake. A clean and fair election? GOP senators rushed in to make sure that won’t happen again. On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled state senate approved legislation to bar Pate from sending absentee ballot request forms to anyone who hasn’t asked for one.
“Iowa’s county auditors, who administer elections, pronounced themselves ‘baffled’ by the legislation, given the ‘very successful’ primary, as Roxanna Moritz, head of their association, noted.
“It’s not baffling to anyone who has been following Republican vote-limiting efforts around the country. The GOP has gone to great lengths to shrink and control the voter rolls, particularly trying to impede young people and block people from voting.
“Many of their methods predate the coronavirus pandemic: obstructive voter-ID laws; closing polling places in selected neighborhoods so that voters must travel long distances or wait in long lines; impeding voting in college towns; finding pretexts to scrub voters from the rolls; opposing automatic or same-day registration; blocking former prisoners from voting, even when (as in Florida) nearly two-thirds of voters approve a referendum saying former felons who have served their time should be allowed to vote.
“Now, in coronavirus time, they have gone into overdrive, doing everything they can to block the orderly issuing and processing of absentee ballots, which will be essential in November if the virus is still rampaging….
“When they bother to justify this extraordinarily destructive campaign, Republicans generally pretend they are fighting election fraud. Fraud does exist – most recently, committed by Republicans in a North Carolina congressional race – but it is rare. Absentee voting would not greatly increase the risk, particularly if Congress adequately funded state election offices for the emergency – which, in another chaos-enhancing move, Republican senators are refusing to do.
“No, fraud is just the excuse. President Trump early in his term appointed a commission with the express mission of locating this Loch Ness monster of Republican mythology, and it collapsed in utter, embarrassed failure.
“Then, in March, as he is wont to do, Trump gave the game away. Referring to a Democratic proposal to allow more vote-by-mail, he said, ‘They had things – levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.’
“Why would the leader of the world’s oldest democracy oppose high levels of voting? And why would one of the nation’s two leading parties fear high levels of voting?....
“The answer is not much of a puzzle. The party has hitched itself to a leader whose appeal is based on nostalgia for a racist past….
“So Republicans do everything they can to suppress turnout, and black turnout most of all.
“It is a strategy born of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. A political party with faith in itself and its ideas competes by offering the most attractive possible candidates and policies, and trying to win the most support.
“Sadly, that is no longer the Republican way.”
In an interview released today with Politico, President Trump said expanded mail-in voting could cost him re-election.
“My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump told Politico in the interview, conducted on Thursday. “If we don’t win those lawsuits… I think it puts the election at risk.”
Asked if he would accept the results of the election no matter the outcome, Trump told Politico that was a question “you can never answer.”
--The ex-Atlanta cop who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks was charged with felony murder and could face the death penalty, prosecutors first announced Wednesday.
Garrett Rolfe, 27, was fired Saturday after shooting Brooks twice in the back during a scuffle outside a Wendy’s restaurant. He faces 11 charges in all – including aggravated assault.
A second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, was initially said to be cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, but then Brosnan’s attorney said he was not cooperating. Brosnan faces three charges, including aggravated assault.
Don Samuel, Brosnan’s lawyer, said that while his client had told Howard’s office “everything that happened” during a lengthy interview and would cooperate with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe he had not agreed to be “state’s witness.”
Many police in Atlanta decried Howard’s acting so swiftly, though Howard said he reviewed numerous videos of the incident, as well as interviewing 10 witnesses – including a family of three from Tennessee who were in a car hit by one stray bullet.
Among prosecutors’ considerations was that “we noted from our evaluation was that Brooks on the night of the incident was calm, was cordial, and really displayed a cooperative nature” during the initial encounter, Howard said.
The two cops also did not check on Brooks for more than 2 minutes, while Rolfe at one point kicked him while he lay dying and Brosnan “stood on his shoulder” – the reason for the assault charge against him.
But then Howard said he would not seek the death penalty (so why freakin’ bring it up initially?) and the Atlanta Police Department came down with a major case of “blue flu”…not showing up for duty.
This case is not going to end well for those seeking justice for Mr. Brooks. Howard is not impressive. [At the same time, the initial read is that the case won’t be coming to trial until after the first of the year.]
--Editorial / Washington Post
“ ‘An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.’ With this pellucid sentence, the Supreme Court on Monday helped make America a better country and relieved the fears of millions of LGBTQ Americans that, at any moment, their employers could subject them to humiliation, punishment or poverty simply because they are attracted to members of the same sex or because their gender identity does not match their gender assigned at birth. Employment discrimination on these grounds is no longer legal anywhere in the United States.
“This is another case in which a major civil rights advance came not from Congress, which failed to update federal employment rules to protect the LGBTQ community, but from the federal bench. Yet the court did not act beyond its writ, a fact partially evidenced by the ideological diversity of the majority that rendered it: Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote the opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s four liberals.
“Mr. Gorsuch grounded the opinion in a reading of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The act’s Title VII bars employers from firing, discriminating against or failing to hire people based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. ‘An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,’ Mr. Gorsuch reasoned. ‘Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.’….
“With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, there was much uncertainty about how the court, too, would handle issues of LGBTQ rights. After a string of transformational rulings would the court ignore plausible – even the most plausible – interpretations of the law if they resulted in more sweeping victories for the LGBTQ community? The justices, thankfully, did not flinch.”
Another defeat for President Trump.
--Capt. Brett Crozier’s removal from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he questioned the Navy’s handling of the outbreak on his ship has been upheld by Navy leaders. The Navy had launched an inquiry to investigate what happened and consider Crozier’s reinstatement.
--Kathleen Parker / Washington Post
“Among the many consequences of our Covid-19 economy is the likely closing of dozens of Catholic schools that serve minority students in vulnerable, underserved communities.
“The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) estimates that at least 100 such schools won’t reopen in the fall – or probably ever. Their fortunes and those of their students rely heavily upon charitable donations, which have fallen off in the months since stay-at-home orders went into effect. Without those funds, the schools can’t offer scholarships to families that otherwise couldn’t afford tuition. Twenty percent of students in the nation’s 6,000 Catholic schools are minorities, including Hispanics, African Americans and Asians.
“The numbers are much higher in what’s called the Partnership Schools, a network of nine Catholic schools in Harlem and the South Bronx in New York and in Cleveland. In addition to the coursework usually found in public schools, schools in the partnership stress four core values – integrity, humility, hard work and service. Enrollees at these nine schools are 67 percent Hispanic and 31 percent African American. Of these students, 85 percent have received scholarships.
“The average yearly tuition cost of a Catholic school is $4,800 for elementary school and $11,200 for high school, according to the NCEA. Right off, it would seem that only the rich or the very poor can afford a Catholic education these days. The middle class – too rich for financial aid and too strapped for full tuition – is out of luck….
“Adaptation is key to survival. Catholic schools failed to adapt to the loss of a cheap labor force as the number of young priests and nuns began to fall. In 1960, 74 percent of parochial school staff were members of religious orders or clergy. By 2017, with half of all Catholic schools closed, less than 3 percent of staff were clergy, replaced by lay staff who require a reasonable salary. That meant increasing donations or increasing tuition – and often both. Even when doing God’s work, the cost of doing business is passed on to the consumer….
“Nevertheless, the merits of a Catholic education are self-evident. Five of the nine Supreme Court justices attended Catholic schools. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore, which is set to close June 30.
“Overall achievement in Catholic schools is higher on average than in public schools and the achievement gap between minorities and others is small. Moreover, minority students at Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and college than their peers in public school….
“Whatever one’s biases or misgivings, there’s no question that Catholic schools have been bridges of learning to vulnerable communities. St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., which closed in 2017, was one of those bridges.
“In ‘The Miracle of St. Anthony,’ author Adrian Wojnarowski tells the story of famed basketball coach Bob Hurley, whose teams sent more than 150 players to Division I basketball programs, all on full scholarships. One of the school’s graduates, Hank Rivers, is quoted in the book: ‘If I never met Coach Hurley, I don’t know where I’d be. Actually, I do know: either coming or going to prison. Or I’d be dead.’
“As celebrities busy themselves with virtue signaling, making videos of themselves professing to fight racism, now seems an opportune time to consider donating to some of these schools so that minority children can receive a quality education while absorbing values that will contribute more to racial equality and harmony than all the selfies and proclamations social media can record.”
[Ed. I lived across from St. Anthony for a time in the early 1980s.]
--Finally, we note the passing of Vera Lynn, the singer who became a symbol of hope in Britain during World War II and again during the coronavirus pandemic with her song “We’ll Meet Again.” She was 103.
Known as the Forces’ Sweetheart, Lynn struck a chord with soldiers fighting overseas and with the public back home with songs such as “The White Cliffs of Dover” that gave voice to the hopes and fears about the conflict with Nazi Germany.
To mark her 100th birthday in 2017, a giant image of Lynn as a young woman was projected on to those white cliffs and a new album released. She was back in the headlines as recently as April when Queen Elizabeth used words from Lynn’s song to tell the country “We will meet again” and urged people to show resolve during the coronavirus lockdown.
“Dame Vera Lynn’s charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.”
RIP, Dame Vera.
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song
Pray for the men and women of our armed forces…and all the fallen.
We honor our healthcare workers and first responders.
God bless America.
Returns for the week 6/15-6/19
Dow Jones +1.0% 
S&P 500 +1.9% 
S&P MidCap +1.4%
Russell 2000 +2.2%
Nasdaq +3.7% 
Returns for the period 1/1/20-6/19/20
Dow Jones -9.5%
S&P 500 -4.1%
S&P MidCap -13.5%
Russell 2000 -15.0%
Hang in there. Wear a mask.