Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Trump Backers Cheer Economic Agenda, Blame GOP for Setbacks

September 22, 2017

President’s responses on North Korea, white supremacist violence draw slightly lower rating

Image result for Donald Trump in Florida after hurricane, photos

By Valerie BauerleinArian Campo-Flores and Quint Forgey
The Wall Street Journal

As President Donald Trump approaches his 10th month in the White House, The Wall Street Journal revisited voters in six counties representing the economic underpinnings of his support. In each county, the Journal spoke to supporters, converts, abstainers and opponents to see how their economic situation is changing, and whether their expectations are being met.

Supporters of President Donald Trump generally approve of his overall performance on what they see as core issues such as jobs and taxes, and they blame Republicans in Congress for failing to support the White House agenda.

“I think he’s doing great,” said Emory Terensky, 66 years old, a former steelworker in Monessen, Pa. Similarly, Patti Thompson, who lives in the Phoenix-area retirement community of Sun City, said her support of the president hasn’t wavered, though she continues to be frustrated that “we can’t get Congress and Trump on the same page.” She puts the fault for that on congressional Republican leaders.

On a few issues, such as tensions with North Korea and clashes with white supremacists in the U.S., Mr. Trump received a slightly lower rating. “I’m very concerned about the North Koreans,” said John Golomb, 65, a former steelworker, in Monessen, Pa. “Is Donald Trump talk, or is he action? That’s the $64,000 question.”

Robert Lee, the 62-year-old owner of Rockingham Guns & Ammo in Richmond County, N.C., gives the president an overall grade of “B-minus, at best.” He is holding out hope that Mr. Trump will begin successfully working with Congress to get his agenda passed. “He is more intent on fighting,” Mr. Lee said. “You can’t fight all the time. You’ve got to step back away from it, take a look at the broader picture of what’s taking place and do something about it.”

Trump opponents, for the most part, remain angry, and, in some cases, disheartened, with his handling of several key issues over the past few months. Trish Collins, a 40-year-old human resources manager in Pinellas County, Fla., said she feels exhausted by the “roller coaster” of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Rachel Kalenberg, 35, who voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate, said she hadn’t yet seen evidence of an economic boom in energy-rich Gillette, Wyo, where she owns a pizza shop. But she acknowledged that many people here still believe Mr. Trump’s support of the coal industry could ultimately mean more jobs and other good things. “I think Gillette is very hopeful, and we have seen a little bit of growth,” she said. “Maybe it’s not enough.”

Among Trump supporters, views were mixed on his response to the Confederate statue protests in Charlottesville, Va., which descended into a fatal confrontation. Some, including Mr. Lee in Richmond County, N.C., believe that Mr. Trump created unnecessary problems by blaming white nationalists for violent confrontations with counterprotesters in an Aug. 14 prepared speech, then saying there was “blame on both sides” in a news conference the next day at Trump Tower in New York.

“He added a little bit more to it than should’ve been added and that drove a wedge,” Mr. Lee said. “If you keep on tossing something into the wind, it’s going to blow back on you, and it did.”

But others, such as Earl Cassorla, 61, agreed with Mr. Trump’s stance, and blamed the media for not reporting his remarks accurately. “The president denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” said Mr. Cassorla, co-owner of a fireworks shop in Battle Mountain, Nev. “The president said there were good people on both sides of the statue protest. The media responded that ‘No, there are no good Nazis.’ Fake news.”

Mr. Cassorla also agreed with Mr. Trump’s assertions in various tweets that removal of Confederate statues is wrong. In the case of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose statue in Charlottesville was at the center of the Aug. 12 protest, Mr. Cassorla said the Southern war commander wasn’t the racist he has been portrayed to be.

“People were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who fought for the rights of his state, despite his desire for the country to remain undivided,” he said. “Some opposing the removal of Lee’s statue were a fringe group of white supremacists. Additionally, some protesting were just people who simply opposed the removal of a historical statue.”

Jocelyn Golomb, a 20-year-old Monessen, Pa., store clerk, who voted for Hillary Clinton in November, said she has always hated Mr. Trump. But her contempt for the president reached new heights following his response to the violence in Charlottesville.

“He kind of didn’t really have anything to say until after he was pushed to say something, and that wasn’t right,” she said. “I don’t think he’ll ever have my support. Ever.”

Ms. Collins in Pinellas County, Fla., who voted for Mrs. Clinton, thinks Mr. Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville violence was abysmal. “If I had to guess what is the worst way to respond to this, he nearly hit it, ” she said. “It was terrifying to see that.” At the same time, “this is not a surprise,” she said. “He’s been saying racist things from the beginning of his campaign.”

Some Trump supporters, such as Curtis Chambers, a 54-year-old financial adviser, in Pinellas County, praised the way the president has handled the North Korea problem. “It is the question no one seems to have an answer for,” Mr. Chambers said.

“I think the Obama period was a period of appeasement,” Mr. Chambers said. “The Trump approach is different. It will be more confrontational, highlighted by his rhetoric. I feel like he’s being strong with North Korea. … I wish there was a better answer, but at least he’s standing up to [ Kim Jong Un].”

“It’s a tough situation,” said Steve Lang, a 54-year-old contingency planner in Pinellas County. He backs the way the president is working with allies such as Japan to try to contain the threat. “I don’t think the American people want us to go to war with North Korea.”

But Mr. Golomb, the former steelworker in Monessen, Pa., who feels more “cheated” than ever after voting for Mr. Trump in November 2016, fears a growing threat from Pyongyang that he believes is exacerbated by Mr. Trump’s bluster on social media.

“I’m very concerned about the North Koreans,” he said. “Is Donald Trump talk, or is he action? That’s the $64,000 question.”

To Ms. Collins, the Clinton voter, Mr. Trump’s handling of hostilities with North Korea has been unsettling. “He and Kim Jong Un are very similar in what they say to each other, and it’s terrifying to see our president saber-rattling,” she said. “I can’t see how his approach is making things better.” Moreover, she said, Mr. Trump is alienating key allies such as China that could help defuse the situation.

The president’s August speech on Afghanistan, in which he backed a continued commitment there despite a campaign pledge to quickly pull out, earned mixed reviews from his supporters.

“I don’t think putting more troops on the ground in Afghanistan is the answer,” said Samme Engelson, 40, owner of an embroidery shop in Battle Mountain, Nev., who voted for the president. “I worry about the counsel the president is getting as far as this ‘war’ is concerned. We have been there so long.”

But Mr. Lang, who also backed the president, said the president’s change of heart was a positive step. “He sounded like he listened to his generals,” he said.

John Golomb, the former steelworker from Monessen, Pa., who early into Mr. Trump’s presidency began to regret his Trump vote, was particularly worried about the shift in Afghanistan which he hopes “doesn’t turn into another Vietnam.”

Responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma split along partisan lines, even in Florida, where Irma did the most damage.

Mr. Chambers, a Trump supporter in Pinellas County, thinks Mr. Trump performed well in the wake of the recent hurricanes.

“He went there right away,” Mr. Chambers said. “That kind of hands-on leadership, and showing up at the front where the trouble is, is a morale booster to everybody.”

But Ms. Collins, the Clinton supporter from Pinellas County, faulted Mr. Trump’s response.

“It seemed pretty obvious on his first visit [to Texas] that he was there just to promote himself,” she said. She credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mobilization of resources, but said “this is another example of the career government staffers around him doing the best they can.”

Outside the hurricane zone, reactions were similarly divided.

“The president has behaved in a most compassionate manner related to the victims of this terrible storm,” said Mr. Cassorla of Nevada.

But Ms. Golomb of Monessen, Pa., viewed the president’s trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, in late August as nothing more than a glorified photo opportunity. “He wasn’t talking about, ‘Oh, we have a natural disaster, ‘” she said. “He was talking about, ‘What a huge crowd.'”

The president’s moves on DACA won praise from supporters for his initial move to toss the topic into Congress’s lap, but became more divisive when he began negotiating directly with Democrats. The suggestion to press for a continuance of such protections for young immigrants is also in line with a majority of Americans, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Ms. Engelson, of Battle Mountain, Nev., expressed concern about the president’s handling of DACA.

“I originally thought that the president did the right thing in canceling DACA in six months,” she said. “Let Congress do their job. Now I am a bit worried that he is going to sacrifice immigration law to advance other items in his agenda, such as repealing Obamacare and tax reform. If that happens, I think he will have done great damage to his political future and perhaps our country’s future.”

But some supporters were willing to cut him more slack.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-backers-cheer-economic-agenda-blame-gop-for-setbacks-1506078002

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U.S. economic growth hits 3% rate in second quarter

August 30, 2017

Q2 GDP revised up from initial estimate of 2.6% on stronger consumer spending

By GREG ROBB

SENIOR ECONOMICS REPORTER
Getty Images
A woman carries retail shopping bags in New York City.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. economic rebound in the second quarter was stronger than initially reported, as a lift to consumer spending and business investment led to the strongest growth in more than two years.

Gross domestic product rose at 3% rate from April to June, up from an initial 2.6% reading, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected a smaller upward revision in second-quarter GDP to a 2.8% rate.

The economy picked up from a 1.2% rate in the first quarter. A slow first quarter followed by an improved second quarter also occurred in two of the past three years. Economists say that the most recent data suggest the U.S. is on track to maintain a 3%-plus clip in the third quarter.

The last time the U.S. economy had two quarters above 3% was in 2014.

President Donald Trump is relying on growth above 3% to generate enough revenue for the government to pay for tax cuts and more infrastructure spending.

Consumer spending was the main engine for the strength in the second quarter, rising a revised 3.3% in the second quarter. That was up from the government’s original estimate of a 1.9% gain. Americans spent more on goods and services, including car purchases.

Outlays of business investment rose at a revised 0.6% clip in the second quarter, up from a prior 0.4% estimate.

The government reported that corporate adjusted pretax profits were up 6.7% over the past year, despite falling at a 0.5% quarterly rate in the second quarter.

The report also confirms that inflation has moved away from the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual target in the second quarter.

Inflation as measured by the Fed’s preferred PCE price index decelerated to a 1.6% annual pace in the quarter, down from a 2% rate in the first quarter.

Core PCE slumped to a 1.5% rate from a 1.8% rate in the prior three months.

Soft inflation is raising questions over whether the Fed will go ahead with another interest-rate hike this year. The central bank had penciled in three hikes this year and has already engineered two hikes in the first half of the year.

U.S. futures pointed to a higher opening for the Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, +0.02%   in the wake of the GDP report, as well as another showing brisk jobs growth in August.

Read: Private-sector job growth surges in August, ADP says

Trump renews attack on Amazon, claiming ‘jobs lost’

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US President Donald Trump, pictured with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos business roundtable at the White House on June 19, has renewed his criticism of Amazon, claiming the online giant is harming other retailers

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Amazon, claiming the US online colossus is doing “great damage” to other retailers and destroying jobs.

Trump, who has criticized Amazon in the past, offered no specific facts to back up his argument. He launched his tirade in an early-morning tweet as he came under attack for blaming “both sides” following the death of a protester during a white supremacist rally over the weekend in Virginia.

“Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers,” Trump wrote.

“Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

Trump appeared to revive an argument that Amazon has an unfair advantage over other retailers by avoiding sales taxes. But the online giant has in recent years agreed to pay local sales tax in all US states.

According to the fact-check website Politifact, Amazon last year paid $412 million in US federal, state, local and foreign taxes.

Amazon has been blamed for the woes of a number of brick-and-mortar retailers, although analysts say many other factors have affected the sector.

Seattle, Washington-based Amazon has grown from its origins as a retailer to a diversified tech group in cloud computing, online video and other services.

In January, Amazon announced that it planned to create more than 100,000 new US jobs over the coming 18 months.

During the election campaign, Trump said Amazon would has “huge antitrust problem,” presumably due to its position in retail.

Trump has also claimed that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post as a way to lobby on behalf of Amazon.

Amazon did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the president’s tweet.

Trump’s comments come after several business leaders quite White House advisory panels, criticizing the president failing to speak out immediately against white supremacists after the weekend rally and then saying they and counter-protesters shared blame for the violence.

Italy enjoys best annual economic growth since 2011

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Italy posted its best annual economic growth figures since 2011 on Wednesday, its gross domestic product outdoing forecasts to grow year on year by 1.5 per cent

ROME (AFP) – Italy posted its best annual economic growth figures since 2011 on Wednesday, its gross domestic product outdoing forecasts to grow year on year by 1.5 per cent.In the first six months of 2017, growth was 1.2 percent, according to the national institute of statistics (ISTAT).

Quarterly growth held steady at 0.4 percent in the three months to June, leaving Italy still below the eurozone average of 0.6 percent in the quarter.

“Growth better than forecast. A good base from which to boost the economy and employment,” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter.

The Italian government had forecast a 1.1 percent increase in GDP this year, while the European Commission had expected it to increase by 0.9 percent and the International Monetary Fund had tipped a 0.8 percent rise.

Italy shrugged off years of recession in 2014 but growth was very weak at just 0.1 percent. Its economy expanded by 0.8 percent in 2015 and 0.9 percent in 2016 — half the average growth rate in the eurozone.

Analysts had warned growth momentum could be affected this year by the political landscape, as the country heads towards a general election early next year, as well as a fragile banking system.

But the country has been helped by a recovery in the single currency area and a rise in industrial production at home, while concerns over the banking system have receded.

UK unemployment rate hits lowest level since 1975

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Britain’s unemployment rate has struck a new 44-year low
LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s unemployment rate has struck a new 44-year low, official data showed Wednesday, as the uncertainty of Brexit boosts temporary hirings.The rate dipped to 4.4 percent in the three months to June to record the lowest level since 1975, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement. It had stood at 4.5 percent in the quarter to May.

A total of 1.48 million people were recorded as unemployed at the end of June, down 157,000 compared with a year earlier, although with wages growth struggling to keep pace with UK inflation.

“The headline figures shout growth and stability — and yet there’s a huge amount of uncertainty on the ground, particularly due to Brexit,” said David Morel, head of employment firm Tiger Recruitment.

“Against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, people are choosing to stay put rather than speculatively look for other jobs.”

But he noted that “Brexit-related and broader economic uncertainty” was supporting the temporary jobs market as employers “have put their permanent hiring on hold”.

Foxconn to Build $10 Billion Factory in U.S. — 13,000 Jobs

July 27, 2017

Plans for plant in Wisconsin announced at White House ceremony Wednesday

Foxconn makes iPhones and other gadgets for Apple.
Foxconn makes iPhones and other gadgets for Apple. PHOTO: © BOBBY YIP / REUTERS/REUTERS

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Updated July 26, 2017 8:41 p.m. ET

Foxconn Technology Group, which helped turn China into the center of electronics manufacturing, said it would build a $10 billion plant in Wisconsin to make display panels used in televisions and other products.

The plan, announced Wednesday at a White House ceremony, marks the first major U.S. investment for Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics and the maker of iPhones and other gadgets for Apple Inc.

Foxconn, which also owns Sharp Corp. SHCAY -0.39% , said the factory would be the first in a series of U.S. investments. Company Chairman Terry Gou is betting the U.S. can rebuild an electronics supply chain that largely shifted to China and other lower-cost Asian countries in recent decades.

 Workers stand at the gate of a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Foxconn is moving some operations to the United States. Photo: Reuters

The factory is expected to employ 3,000 people initially and as many as 13,000 people eventually. The state is providing Foxconn with a $3 billion, 15-year incentive package of tax credits, said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

President Donald Trump, who routinely invites CEOs to meet with him at the White House to showcase his emphasis on jobs, has vowed to revive U.S. manufacturing and singled out companies for criticism for building plants outside the country. Yet many major corporations have plowed ahead with plans to move factories to Mexico, underscoring the scale of the economic forces that confront Mr. Trump’s plans.

Asia’s sophisticated electronics supply chain and deep labor pool have made it the dominant power in producing devices ranging from TVs to smartphones. Mr. Gou and U.S. officials are banking on the display factory in Wisconsin becoming the cornerstone of a new manufacturing network.

The announcement confirms plans reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal. Foxconn was exploring investments in seven states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Some of those states, including Wisconsin, were pivotal to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016, and are home to many of the working-class voters who were seen as key to his win.

Mr. Trump also foreshadowed Foxconn’s plans in an interview with the Journal Tuesday. In the same interview, he said Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook had committed to build three big manufacturing plants in the U.S. The remarks thrust Apple into an uncomfortable position, creating expectations it would build manufacturing plants in the U.S. for the first time in decades. Apple declined to comment.

A White House official said those plants were separate from the planned Foxconn facility announced Wednesday.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who heads the White House’s Office of American Innovation, led discussions with Foxconn in recent months, along with Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives. Both Messrs. Kushner and Trump met with Mr. Gou over the course of the discussions, a White House official said.

Wisconsin’s tax credits are tied to job creation, capital expenditure and purchases of construction materials, a state official said. In addition to the potential 13,000 factory workers, state officials said analysts with Ernst & Young estimate the plant will create 22,000 indirect jobs and another 10,000 construction jobs.

Mr. Walker said the plant could draw as many as 150 supporting suppliers to Southeastern Wisconsin and nearby states. Mr. Walker said the average salaries for the 13,000 jobs at the factory would be $53,000 annually, plus benefits.

The 20-million-square-foot campus will primarily produce high-resolution liquid-crystal displays, known as 8K resolution LCD, used in smartphones and car dashboards in addition to TVs.

The facility will be located in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, which stretches from just south of Milwaukee to the Illinois border, according to Mr. Ryan’s spokesman. The exact location is still being determined.

“We’re calling this corridor in Wisconsin the Wisconn Valley,” Mr. Walker said in an interview. He said the new Foxconn campus would be large enough to hold 11 Lambeau Fields, home of the Green Bay Packers.

Mr. Gou started Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. 2317 1.73% , in Taiwan in 1974 making plastic channel-changing knobs for black-and-white television sets. He turned it into the world’s foremost contract manufacturer and one of China’s largest exporters, making products for a range of other customers in addition to Apple. It operates factories across China, where it employs hundreds of thousands of workers, and last year reported about $140 billion in revenue.

Mr. Gou has wanted to open a U.S. display factory for years in hopes of reducing the costs of shipping large-screen TVs from Asia. In 2014, Foxconn raised the possibility of investing $40 million in manufacturing and research facilities in Pennsylvania. The project never made headway because U.S. local governments didn’t offer terms that were favorable enough, the Journal previously reported.

Speaking Wednesday at the White House ceremony, Mr. Gou said the Trump administration’s and Republicans’ support of American-made products gave Foxconn confidence that American manufacturing projects could be a success. “Because of you, we are also committed to creating great jobs for the American people,” said Mr. Gou, who met with Mr. Trump three times during the planning process.

Mr. Gou didn’t elaborate on how the displays would be assembled into TVs or other devices. Much of that work is currently done in Asia where an array of suppliers are based, making it easy to ship components to a plant to assemble products. Rebuilding a significant part of that supply chain in the U.S. would be a significant undertaking.

Many TVs currently sold in the U.S. are assembled in Mexico, so it is possible that the displays made in Wisconsin could be shipped across the border to be installed in TVs that are later shipped back to the U.S. for sale, said Paul Gagnon, who analyzes the TV set market for research firm IHS MarkIt.

“As far as what state are you going to build this in to make it most efficient, Wisconsin is a little far from the Mexican border,” said Mr. Gagnon. He added that there are components that will be needed to make the displays that will need to be shipped to Wisconsin or have supplier factories built to support them.

However, with the cost of resources in China rising, labor shortages mounting and automation increasing, now could be the right time for such an ambitious effort, said David Sullivan, a partner with Alliance Development Group, a Chinese-focused strategy firm that advises technology firms.

Write to Tripp Mickle at Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 27, 2017, print edition as ‘Foxconn to Build U.S. Plant.’

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Trump lashes out at EU again on trade — “E.U. is very protectionist with the U.S.,” Trump Says: “STOP!”

July 25, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | European Council President Donald Tusk (left) speaks to US President Donald Trump in Brussels on May 25, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump once again lashed out at the EU on Tuesday for what he called its “protectionist” trade practices, and indicated the United States will focus on a major deal with Britain.

“Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS!” Trump tweeted.

“The E.U. is very protectionist with the U.S. STOP!”

Trump frequently turns to Twitter to attack US trading partners for what he says are unfair trade policies, as his America-first agenda focuses on cutting US trade deficits, something economists say is unlikely to work and potentially damaging.

In the EU, Germany has been a frequent target of Trump administration due to its large trade surplus.

The latest Twitter swipe came as US and British officials opened the second day of the inaugural round of talks aimed at guiding trade relations between the two countries in the post-Brexit era.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is meeting with his British counterpart Liam Fox for the US-UK Trade and Investment Working Group.

It will be “a key mechanism to deepen our already strong bilateral trade and investment relationship, and to lay the groundwork for our future trade relationship once the UK has left the EU,” Lighthizer said in a statement Monday.

“I look forward to building on our already strong economic relationship and furthering our mutual goal of achieving free and fair trade and investment to create good-paying jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Fox said it will be important to give businesses in both countries continuity while Britain negotiates its status with the EU and after Brexit.

“This will be our forum to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationship and deepen the already extensive economic ties between the UK and US,” Fox said.

Trade between the two countries is already worth about $230 billion a year, and together there is around $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies, according to USTR.

Brexit Could Turn Out Differently Than Anyone Thought — “Everything is still to play for.”

July 23, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Lucy Harris thinks Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is a dream come true. Nick Hopkinson thinks it’s a nightmare.

The two Britons — a “leave” supporter and a “remainer” — represent the great divide in a country that stepped into the unknown just over a year ago, when British voters decided by 52 percent to 48 percent to end more than four decades of EU membership.

They are also as uncertain as the rest of the country about what Brexit will look like, and even when it will happen. Since the shock referendum result, work on negotiating the divorce from the EU has slowed to a crawl as the scale and complexity of the challenge becomes clearer.

Harris, founder of the pro-Brexit group Leavers of London, says she is hopeful, rather than confident, that Britain will really cut its ties with the EU.

“If we haven’t finalized it, then anything’s still up for grabs,” she said. “Everything is still to play for.”

She’s not the only Brexiteer, as those who support leaving the EU are called, to be concerned. After an election last month clipped the wings of Britain’s Conservative government, remainers are gaining in confidence.

“Since the general election I’ve been more optimistic that at least we’re headed toward soft Brexit, and hopefully we can reverse Brexit altogether,” said Hopkinson, chairman of pro-EU group London4Europe. “Obviously the government is toughing it out, showing a brave face. But I think its brittle attitude toward Brexit will break and snap.”

Many on both sides of the divide had assumed the picture would be clearer by now. But the road to Brexit has not run smoothly.

First the British government lost a Supreme Court battle over whether a vote in Parliament was needed to begin the Brexit process. Once the vote was held, and won, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government officially triggered the two-year countdown to exit, starting a race to untangle four decades of intertwined laws and regulations by March 2019.

Then, May called an early election in a bid to strengthen her hand in EU negotiations. Instead, voters stripped May’s Conservatives of their parliamentary majority, severely denting May’s authority — and her ability to hold together a party split between its pro-and anti-EU wings.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

David Davis (left) and Michel Barnier at their news conference in Brussels. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Since the June 8 election, government ministers have been at war, providing the media with a string of disparaging, anonymously sourced stories about one another. Much of the sniping has targeted Treasury chief Philip Hammond, the most senior minister in favor of a compromise “soft Brexit” to cushion the economic shock of leaving the bloc.

The result is a disunited British government and an increasingly impatient EU.

EU officials have slammed British proposals so far as vague and inadequate. The first substantive round of divorce talks in Brussels last week failed to produce a breakthrough, as the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain must clarify its positions in key areas.

Barnier said “fundamental” differences remain on one of the biggest issues — the status of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1 million U.K. nationals who reside in other European countries. A British proposal to grant permanent residency to Europeans in the U.K. was dismissed by the European Parliament as insufficient and burdensome.

There’s also a fight looming over the multibillion-euro bill that Britain must pay to meet previous commitments it made as an EU member. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently asserted the bloc could “go whistle” if it thought Britain would settle a big exit tab.

“I am not hearing any whistling. Just the clock ticking,” Barnier replied.

EU officials insist there can be no discussion of a future trade deal with Britain until “sufficient progress” has been made on citizens’ rights, the exit bill and the status of the Irish border.

“We don’t seem to be much further on now than we were just after the referendum,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “I’m not sure anybody knows just how this is going to go. I’m not sure the government has got its negotiating goals sorted. I’m not sure the EU really knows what (Britain’s goals) are either.

“I think we are going to find it very, very hard to meet this two-year deadline before we crash out.”

The prospect of tumbling out of the bloc — with its frictionless single market in goods and services — and into a world of tariffs and trade barriers has given Britain’s economy the jitters. The pound has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year, economic growth has slowed and manufacturing output has begun to fall.

Employers’ organization the Confederation of British Industry says the uncertainty is threatening jobs. The group says to ease the pain, Britain should remain in the EU’s single market and customs union during a transitional period after Brexit.

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That idea has support from many lawmakers, both Conservative and Labour, but could bring the wrath of pro-Brexit Conservatives down on the already shaky May government. That could trigger a party leadership challenge or even a new election — and more delays and chaos.

In the meantime, there is little sign the country has heeded May’s repeated calls to unite. A post-referendum spike in hate crimes against Europeans and others has subsided, but across the country families have fought and friendships have been strained over Brexit.

“It has created divisions that just weren’t there,” said Hopkinson, who calls the forces unleashed by Brexit a “nightmare.”

On that, he and Harris agree. Harris set up Leavers of London as a support group after finding her views out of synch with many others in her 20-something age group.

“I was fed up with being called a xenophobe,” she said. “You start this conversation and it gets really bad very quickly.”

She strongly believes Britain will be better off outside the EU. But, she predicts: “We’re in for a bumpy ride, both sides.”

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Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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Top Tory Philip Hammond enjoys a rent-free home

Americans Feel Good About the Economy, Not So Good About Trump

July 17, 2017

By John McCormick
Bloomberg

July 17, 2017, 4:00 AM EDT
  • Just 40 percent approve of president’s performance in office
  • Narrow majority expect stock market to be higher by year’s end
Traders pass in front of an American flag displayed outside of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.

 Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Almost six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans are feeling fairly optimistic about their jobs, the strength of the U.S. economy, and their own fortunes. That should be welcome news for the president, except for one thing: The public’s confidence largely appears to be in spite of Trump, not because of him.

The latest Bloomberg National Poll shows 58 percent of Americans believe they’re moving closer to realizing their own career and financial aspirations, tied for the highest recorded in the poll since the question was first asked in February 2013.

A majority expect the U.S. stock market to be higher by the end of this year, while 30 percent anticipate a decline. Yet they don’t necessarily think Trump deserves credit for rising markets and falling unemployment.

Just 40 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing in the White House, and 55 percent now view him unfavorably, up 12 points since December. Sixty-one percent say the nation is headed down the wrong path, also up 12 points since December.

Trump scored his best numbers on his handling of the economy, but even there the news for him isn’t great. Less than half of Americans — 46 percent — approve of Trump’s performance on the economy; 44 percent disapprove. He gets slightly better marks for job creation, with 47 percent approving.

“If you take the president’s scores out of this poll, you see a nation increasingly happy about the economy,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “When Trump’s name is mentioned, the clouds gather.”

In nearly every measure of his performance, the poll indicates that Trump’s tumultuous presidency is not wearing well with the public. A 56 percent majority say they’re more pessimistic about Trump because of his statements and actions since the election. That’s a huge swing since December when 55 percent said his statements and actions made them more optimistic about him.

Read the poll questions and methodology here.

The public has grown more skeptical that Trump will deliver on some of his most ambitious campaign promises. Two-thirds don’t think he’ll succeed in building a wall along the Mexican border during his first term. More than half say he won’t be able to revive the coal industry.

A majority — 54 percent — believe Trump will manage to create trade deals more beneficial to the U.S., but that’s down from 66 percent in December. There’s division on whether he’ll be able to bring a substantial number of jobs back to America, or significantly reform the tax code.

And despite his assurances that he and congressional Republicans will repeal Obamacare and replace it with a “beautiful” new health care bill, 64 percent of Americans say they disapprove of his handling of the issue. That’s especially significant because health care topped unemployment, terrorism and immigration as the issue poll respondents chose as the most important challenge facing the nation right now.

There are at least two areas where Americans say they believe Trump will deliver: Almost two-thirds say he will make significant cuts in government regulation, though it’s not clear whether most think that’s a good or bad thing. Likewise, 53 percent believe he will succeed in deporting millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The public is also skeptical about Trump’s abilities as a world leader, with 58 percent saying they disapprove of the way he handles relations with other countries and 46 percent disappointed in his actions on trade agreements.

Americans are more pessimistic about foreign policy than they were in December. Fifty-five percent now say they expect dealings with Germany to get worse during the next four years, up 22 points. The share of poll respondents who anticipate worsening relations with the U.K., Mexico, Cuba and Russia also increased by double digits.

The public is also wary of Trump’s motives in his negotiations with other countries. Just 24 percent said they were “very confident” that Trump puts the nation’s interests ahead of his businesses or family when dealing with foreign leaders.

Americans have plenty of other worries about the world. Majorities believe it’s realistic that terrorists will launch a major attack on U.S. soil (68 percent) and that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon aimed at the U.S. (55 percent).

Trump has called the expanding investigations into possible connections between his presidential campaign and Russia a “witch hunt.” But the public isn’t necessarily taking his side. Since the president’s decision to oust former FBI Director James Comey, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s standing has improved. It’s now viewed favorably by 68 percent, up 10 points since December. Comey is viewed positively by 43 percent, while 36 percent see him negatively.

Meanwhile, most Americans don’t share the president’s apparent soft spot for Vladimir Putin: 65 percent view the Russian president negatively — and 53 percent say it’s realistic to think Russian hacking will disrupt future U.S. elections.

There is one notable bright spot for Trump. Though views of the White House as an institution are at the lowest level ever recorded by the poll — with 48 percent now viewing it unfavorably, up 21 points since December — Trump’s voters are still sticking with him. Among those who cast ballots for him, 89 percent still say he’s doing a good job.

The telephone poll of 1,001 American adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, higher among subgroups. It was conducted July 8-12 by Iowa-based Selzer & Co.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-17/americans-feel-good-about-the-economy-not-so-good-about-trump-j57v0var

Philippines: Year of Duterte’s dystopian vision

July 4, 2017
Over the course of his first 12 months as president, Rodrigo Duterte jabbered about the scourge of drugs unprovoked, repeating the same ideas.

This piece is a part of a news analysis series on the first 12 months of the Duterte administration.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s language was surprising and even shocking, before it became predictable.

He would stand behind a podium and halfheartedly read part of a speech written for him. Then he would proceed with an impromptu about the enormity of the drug problem (there are 4 million drug addicts, he claimed, with little evidence), the threat of drug users to communities (drugs makes them animals, he said, but this is not backed by science) or drug money fueling politics and crime (his political foe, Leila de Lima, sits in jail over drug-related accusations).

He simplistically described narcotics as driving complex problems of corruption and terrorism, popularizing portmanteaus “narco-terrorism,” “narco-politicians” and “narco-list,” an intel document on officials linked to the trade.

While not grieving the killing of thousands in his drug war, he lamented the “everyday” death of cops, despite police data recording far fewer casualties on their end.

Philstar.com‘s research shows that Duterte mentioned illegal drugs in 247 of 304 of his public remarks since he became president in June last year. In his hour-long State of the Nation Address that July alone, he made reference to drugs 23 times.

Over the course of his first 12 months as president, Duterte jabbered about the scourge of drugs unprovoked, repeating the same ideas. He did so while abroad before top officials. And he did the same while addressing outstanding Filipino awardees, typhoon victims or young athletes.

Perpetuating myths, changing definitions

After all, it was the story that got him elected.

Duterte declared that the country is in the grip of a drug crisis, whose urgent solution comes in his campaign promise of a bloody war.

Sociologist Nicole Curato of the University of Canberra argued that populist Duterte’s “dystopian narrative” shifted the discussion during the campaign. It muted those of his opponent, particularly Jejomar Binay and Grace Poe’s platforms for personal dignity.

For Curato, Duterte’s political style makes use of a “language of crisis” drawn from the public’s fear of the real and imagined “other,” in this case, drug users.

“I argue that part of the reason for this narrative’s success has to do with the latent anxiety already existing in the public sphere,” Curato wrote in the “Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs” earlier this year.

This latent anxiety, Curato wrote, was communities’ distress over the commonplace use of illegal drugs. They see the problem—though possibly not as grave on a national scale—up close. But this distress, she said, remains in the background, “mundane but still worrisome, publicized but not politicized.” Until Duterte ran and won.

What ensued were police operations which so far killed at least 5,000 suspects of mostly poor males without benefit of a trial, and thousands of others slayed by vigilantes the government denies backing.

Duterte faced a flurry of criticisms from international human rights organizations and international bodies such as the European Union, culminating at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review in Geneva where states urged a halt in the killings and called for thorough investigations.

ALSO READ: Cayetano uses restrictive EJK definition, experts say

Backed by popular support, Duterte and his officials stood their ground and stoked public anxiety, arguing that the UN’s defense of the war’s drug-crazed targets is a disregard for the human rights of their victims who could be raped or massacred.

Human rights, which by definition should apply to all, ceased to be universal for the administration. Scientifically backed solutions to the drug problem proposed, consequently, failed to catch on.

“While some critics raised issues about human rights and due process, these issues—as far as my respondents were concerned—were secondary to the more pressing dangers they face every day,” wrote Curato, who documented political participation of typhoon victims in Tacloban City who supported Duterte.

Unexpected repercussions

There were more costs to Duterte’s worrisome but politically successful narrative.

Drugs and crime do not appear to be the most urgent concerns of Filipinos, yet President Duterte’s narrative prevails in the political arena. Data from Pulse Asia March 2017 survey.

Excess mandate and a promise of protection fed police corruption and abuse. It was cops who apparently abducted Jee Ick-joo, a Korean businessman, in October last year. He was said to have been killed inside the Philippine National Police’s headquarters in Quezon City, a detail acknowledged by the Philippines’ top cop Ronald dela Rosa.

In another telling case, a mayor detained for alleged links to the drug trade was shot dead inside his jail cell. The cops who did it claimed that Rolando Espinosa fought back and that killing him was an act of self-defense. National Bureau of Investigation findings, however, pointed to a rubout. Duterte publicly defended the cops. Later, the Department of Justice downgraded the murder charges to homicide.

The bloody drug war also emboldened non-state parties to use Duterte’s name in storming into homes or committing robbery.

Efforts to defend Duterte’s drug narrative have gone the distance. The firebrand leader fired his appointed drug policy official for daring to cite a scientific study that belies the president’s claims on drug prevalence.

To counter the press’ findings that data does not support the drug war, Cabinet officials launched the “Real Numbers” campaign. The numbers, in the end, did not seem to be so real.

Besides thousands of killings and tactics to cover up and justify, the country’s healthier bilateral ties also took a hit from Duterte’s cause.

In September, President Barack Obama called on Duterte to deal with the Philippines’ drug woes “the right way,” while the European Union called for a stop to extrajudicial killings in the drug war and condemned a bill reviving the death penalty against drug criminals.

Duterte shot back with a “s** of a w****” remark against Obama and a “f*** y**” (flashing the middle finger twice) to the EU. He would go on in October to announce in Beijing that he is separating from the US. He soon after walked back his statements, but later canceled the annual US-Philippines war games.

Political analyst Dindo Manhit, president of think tank ADR Institute, said there wasn’t a single turning point in the cooling off of US-Philippines relations over the past year. But Washington’s critical view of the drug war did not help.

“The United States’ (and other international actors’) lack of support for the president’s approach to the drug war was likely one important factor. This administration feels strongly about the war on drugs, which was one of its most public initiatives and a personal cause of the president,” Manhit told Philstar.com.

By May, the government got the chance to hit back at the EU. It ended development funding from the bloc, claiming that aid from new friends such as China could make up for the loss. This has yet to be seen.

As Duterte enters his second year as president, it is uncertain where the drug narrative will go, and how much of a toll it will have on democratic institutions and principles.

Still, there is more to the Philippines than meets the eye. Forms of quiet resistance sprang up in response to the dominant political theme.

“I think counter-narratives (to the drug story) will thrive in less overt, less spectacular places. For example, various parishes have quietly helped ‘tokhang’ families by taking them on, burying the dead, etc. These are quiet ways of helping,” sociologist Curato told Philstar.com.

Away from the cacophony, there are possibly more small but humane efforts attending to social wrongs the drug war is supposed to be addressing. These are “not necessarily political but responsive to the injustice the government perpetuates,” Curato said. — Graphics by RP Ocampo

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/07/04/1715996/year-dutertes-dystopian-vision

Related:

 (The Philippines seems to be siding with China, Russia and Iran)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kine also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP