Political Roundup

National News…

On Friday, Sept. 6, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 130,000 jobs emerged in August with 25,000 temporary census workers added—employment statistics lower than analysts had predicted. The private sector demonstrated a fall in employment increases, in comparison to earlier in the year; only 96,000 jobs emerged over the month.

Nevertheless, an imminent recession is unlikely. Despite the slowdown in job growth, wages and readmission among previously inactive job-seekers both rose at a steady pace, with average hourly earnings increasing by an unexpectedly high 0.4 percent. The unemployment rate has remained at a steady 3.7 percent, nearly the lowest it has been in 50 years, and the labor force participation rate rose to 63.2 percent from 63 percent. These signs all indicate a healthy labor market. According to Chief U.S. Financial Economist at Oxford Economics Kathy Bostjancic, August job gains reports, for 9 out of the past 10 years of economic recovery, have tended to harbor statistical bias, given the start of the academic year. Still, the already meager rate of growth is at further risk due to the ongoing trade war with China, where the U.S. manufacturing sector has served as the first victim. Both sales and profit forecasts had precipitously dropped, dragging with them record falls in investors’ confidence and, of course, employment offers (The New York Times, “Hiring Slowed in August, but Wage Gains Accelerated,” 09.06.2019).

The White House is planning to adopt a closed-door attitude towards asylum-seekers, tremendously setting back its 40-year-old program and nullifying the United States’ role as a haven for global refugees. Two approaches present themselves. The United States will either reduce refugee admissions by at least half—granting entry to around 10,000-15,000 people per year—and reserve most of the remaining spots for people from a few countries and special status groups; or disburden itself of admitting any refugees entirely, while still allowing the president to accept emergency cases. The news attracted disparaging reactions from both the media and within the program administration. On one end of the spectrum, President of Refugees International Eric Schwartz, in addition to some of the nation’s most prominent retired military officers, advocated for the United States to continue its forefront involvement in what Schwartz called “a time when the number of [vulnerable persons in need of protection] is at the highest level in recorded history” (The New York Times, “Trump Administration Considers a Drastic Cut in Refugees Allowed to Enter U.S.,” 09.06.2019). On the other end, Trump’s top immigration advisor and allies from the White House have pressed for deeper de-escalation. In the past 2 years, Stephen Miller has induced a 70 percent reduction of the refugee ceiling from its number at the end of former President Obama’s administration to an unprecedentedly low 30,000 this year. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense and newest voice in the annual debate over refugee admission Mark T. Esper has yet to take a stance on the matter. (NYT, “Cut in Refugees”).

Around the world…

From Sept. 1 to Sept.3, the category-five Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abaco islands with 185 mph sustained winds and sea surgesrising to nearly 26 feet. Dorian has resulted in 20 confirmed deaths, most of which occurred in the Abaco islands. The storm then turned westward to Marsh Harbour, razing the Haitian-origin residential shantytowns of The Mudd and Pigeon Pea. Two hundred forty south of Dorian’s eye, the Bahamas’ most concentrated residential area and capital, Nassau, suffered island-wide blackouts and low-lying flooding, leaving more than 60,000 people in need of provisions and clean water. Forecasts and warnings of evacuation from low-lying areas largely went unadhered. Tearing shelters apart and flooding the hospital on Grand Bahama, the storm complicated both current and future evacuation and rescue attempts. El Niño’s waning effects since July capacitated Dorian’s formation. The tropical storm may be the onset of the Caribbean’s spiral of slow-moving tragedies—the latest consequence of warming surface water in the Atlantic and climate change in general (The Economist, “Slow-moving Hurricane Dorian devastates the northern Bahamas,” 09.05.2019).

Just a few days before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that spurred US occupation of Afghanistan, Trump has officially announced his cancellation of the peace meeting with Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David, terminating negotiations that, after months, seemed to be nearing an end. According to Trump, the Taliban nullified their right and capacity to maintain peace talks after admitting to the Thursday suicide car bomb attack that killed 12 people in Kabul’s capital. The senior Trump administration official confirmed that Trump decided on the cancellation on Thursday but had reserved official announcement for Friday. On Friday, Afghan officials confirmed that Ghani, who is favored to win the Sept. 28 national election, postponed a planned meeting to Washington. The potential for future peace negotiations remains uncertain (The New York Times, “Trump Says He’s Called Off Negotiations With Taliban After Afghanistan Bombing,” 09.07.2019).Late Saturday, Sept. 7, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd resigned from both Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet and the Conservative Party without prior notice. Rudd’s farewell was nothing short of sour, explicitly denouncing the current purging of 21 moderate Tories in the past week as “an assault on decency and democracy” and criticizing the Prime Minister’s Brexit policy as “insincere” (The Economist, “Amber Rudd quits the cabinet and the Tory party. Who’s next?,” 09.08.2019). This bitter split exacerbated Johnson’s streak of losses: of the Parliament majority, Brexit strategy control and the support from his own brother–who had quit his position as a junior minister and Tory MP. The Prime Minister’s campaign still seemed to retain public support, yet the duration of his coming tempests, and the results of such mishaps, remain tentative (The Economist).

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