Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Emmanuel Macron criticised for saying jobseeker could find work by crossing the road

September 17, 2018

French president accused of being out of touch by suggesting gardener look for work in a restaurant

The French president Emmanuel Macron was facing fresh criticism after telling an aspiring gardener that he could easily find a job if he would simply start looking in high-demand sectors like restaurants or construction.

In a video Macron was seen talking with the young man during a public open house at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, part of the country’s Heritage Days.

“I’m 25 years old, I send resumes and cover letters, they don’t lead to anything,” he told the president.

“If you’re willing and motivated, in hotels, cafes and restaurants, construction, there’s not a single place I go where they don’t say they’re looking for people. Not one – it’s true!” Macron replied.

He suggested going to the Montparnasse neighbourhood, an area full of cafes and restaurants, and assured him he would easily find work.

“If I crossed the street I’d find you one,” he said.

Arthur Berdah


VIDÉO – Macron à un jeune chômeur qui peine à obtenir un travail : “Je traverse la rue je vous en trouve”

“So go ahead,” he added, to which the man replied, “Understood, thank you” and the pair shook hands.

Industry officials have said there are some 100,000 hotel and restaurant jobs that need filling in France, and have called on Macron to regularise more illegal immigrants to cover the shortage.

Yet critics quickly took to Twitter to deride the advice from the president, a former investment banker who has struggled to shake off a reputation as “president of the rich”.

“Completely disconnected from the reality of the French,” one user wrote. “How can someone show that much contempt, lack of empathy and ignorance in just 30 seconds?” asked another.

Christophe Castaner, the head of Macron’s Republic on the Move party, rejected accusations that Macron had “poorly treated the unemployed”.

“Is what the president said false? If you go to the Montparnasse area, you won’t find that they need workers?” he said in a television interview Sunday.

“You would prefer empty words?” he continued. “I prefer a president who says the truth.”

It was the not the first time Macron has found himself in hot water after appearing to dismiss the concerns of ordinary people while he pushes reforms aimed at shoring up economic growth.

He once called opponents to his reforms “slackers”, and criticised union protesters for “stirring up trouble” instead of finding new jobs.

His poll ratings have slumped to their lowest levels since his election in May 2017, as tax cuts intended to spur spending, mainly for companies and higher earners, have yet to bear much fruit.


How Republicans Could Still Win

September 14, 2018

A forthcoming poll suggests ways they can persuade voters in swing districts.


Primary election voters at a polling station inside Boston City Hall, Sept. 4.
Primary election voters at a polling station inside Boston City Hall, Sept. 4. PHOTO: CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERST/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

This was a week of gloomy midterm polls for the Republican Party, with a wave of results projecting a Democratic takeover of the House and maybe even the Senate. But not all polls are created equal. If Republicans bother to read just one, it should be a yet-unreleased survey that tells a more nuanced story.

The data come courtesy of the Club for Growth, a conservative outfit that plays to win. The club’s donors expect it to place smart bets in elections, which it can’t do if it relies on feel-good data. It uses WPAi, the data firm that in 2016 found Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson really did have a shot at re-election, then crafted the messages that got him the money and votes for victory.



WPAi just handed the club in-depth polling of the people who matter most this midterm—1,000 likely voters in 41 competitive House districts. The results are quietly making their way to Republican leaders, and the club agreed to give me an advance look. Bottom line: Many of these races are winnable—if Republicans have the courage of their convictions and get smarter in tailoring their messages to voters.

On the surface, the results mirror other recent polls. President Trump has a net-negative approval rating across these districts, with his unfavorable ratings notably high among women (57%), independents (58%) and suburban voters (52%). Those who answered prefer a Democratic Congress that will check Mr. Trump (48%) to electing Republicans who will pass his agenda more quickly (42%). The biggest alarm bell is the 12-point enthusiasm gap—with 72% of Democrats “very interested” in this election, compared with 60% of Republicans. In suburbia, the 12-point gap widens to 24.

Yet this thundercloud has silver linings. One is that Republicans still hold a 3-point lead on the generic ballot in these districts, meaning they have a real chance if they get their likely voters out. An even bigger opening: Approximately 25% of those polled remain “persuadable” to vote Republican—if they hear the right things.

The difficulty is that different voters want to hear different things. Republicans have been touting their tax cuts and the economy, and they should. But the club’s data make clear that uncommitted voters want more than past achievements, or a scary picture of Nancy Pelosi, or excuses for Mr. Trump. They want promises for the future. And yes, they remain wary that Democrats will reverse particular economic reforms.

Which is why the message that resonates most strongly by far with persuadable voters is a Republican promise that they will make permanent last year’s middle-class tax cuts. Rep. Kevin Brady, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, has introduced legislation to do just that—and it’s mind-boggling that Republicans haven’t already scheduled votes. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t have 60 Senate supporters, but Republican candidates could use Democratic “no” positions to huge effect in their races.

Likewise, Republicans have an opportunity in highlighting the left’s more doolally ideas. Uncommitted voters reacted strongly against Democrats’ calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and strongly in favor of GOP promises to defund “sanctuary” cities and states, which refuse to follow immigration law. These were top messages for those crucial suburban voters, who have watched in alarm as urban violence creeps into their neighborhoods. (Interestingly, the other top suburban message was repealing ObamaCare.)

As for the Republican base, the poll finds they are driven most by Democrats’ threats to the presidency, the economy and constitutional rights. They will be inspired by Republicans who promise to protect the Second Amendment. They are likewise stirred by promises to defend Mr. Trump from the partisan impeachment effort that would inevitably accompany Democratic House control. And they want to hear Republicans vow to guard against intrusive and specific Democratic job-killing proposals—a $15-an-hour minimum wage, regulations on autos and drinking straws, government health care, etc.

What muddies all this clear direction is Mr. Trump’s nationalization of the race—his insistence on making it a referendum on his presidency. Polling suggests the Trump rallies and election talk are a double-edged sword. They turn off voters in the suburbs, where Republicans are already behind in enthusiasm. But they drive votes in rural areas, which react most strongly to impeachment threats.

So the trick for Republicans is to target different microcosms of their districts, tailoring their messages via digital marketing, calls, mailings and events. Some issues, like taxes, resonate everywhere, but for the most part the emphasis and message needs to be entirely different depending on block-by-block geography.

That’s doable, though it breaks with the usual mentality that elections are one thing or another—a positive or a negative campaign, a referendum or a choice. Elections during the Trump presidency, like the presidency itself, will be messy. Republicans who are willing to embrace that mess still have a shot.

Write to

Left turns blind eye to Trump’s successes

September 13, 2018

This past week I asked a friend at the White House about how the president was holding up against the onslaught of media attacks. “They didn’t even deliver a glancing blow,” was the response. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Has any president in modern times been the target of such a blitzkrieg of orchestrated assaults — from John McCain’s funeral turned anti-Trump scrum to Bob Woodward’s discredited new book trashing the president to the media infatuation with the anonymous New York Times op-ed by a disgruntled federal employee who hates President Trump.

By Stephen Moore

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Photo credit: AP

Here we go again. Trump is (for the umpteenth time) characterized as dangerous, deranged, delusional, infantile, racist and amoral. The only people who pay attention to the anti-Trump screeds are already frothing at the mouth with Trump hatred. What is the point? After all this time, the “resistance” movement is still utterly clueless about Trump, his followers and the appeal of his “America First” agenda. Just why is he “deranged”? Because he is overturning trade deals, pulling the United States out of anti-America climate change treaties, building a wall to keep out undesirables, cutting taxes, slashing regulation and insisting that Europe pay its fair share of NATO’s costs.

Well, yes. Guilty as charged.

And what is the result of all this “chaos” and “mayhem” in the White House that the media is in such a frenzy about? Well, as we learned last week, we now have the lowest number of American workers on unemployment insurance since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the biggest manufacturing boom in 14 years, the lowest black unemployment rate ever recorded, and an economy that is growing at 4.4 percent this quarter, on top of 4.2 percent growth last quarter.

The surging Trump economy is arguably the news story of the decade and yet it is covered, if at all, as a ho-hum yawner.

The first rule of journalism is: Never bury the lead. The media does this every day. Perhaps that is because the press corps and their economist sources are having a devil of a time explaining how a “deranged” president has been able to turbocharge the economy so decisively.

The only story line that The New York Times could conjure up — and I’m not making this up — is that Trump is riding an Obama wave. Sure.

It is a virtual guarantee that when the economy does start to slow down (alas, booms don’t last forever), The New York Times will gleefully shout: Aha, Donald Trump’s economic policies are a failure!

Yes, there is a bit of chaos and disorder at the White House. Yes, some of the characters that Trump has hired had no business being anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. By contrast, Obama had an orderly and statesmanlike White House, and he hired a cadre of highly respected and well-intended people. Yet all of this still produced the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression.

The other day I was on a panel with media reporters and I suggested in all seriousness that Donald Trump deserves the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics. My fellow panelists almost visibly popped a vein in their heads. They ranted and raved about how stupid and dangerous Trump’s policies are. Just who is deranged in this picture?

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Africa seeks China deals that will bring jobs and skills

September 1, 2018

Continent’s leaders want Beijing to commit to strategic relationship at summit
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

China’s President Xi Jinping (right) shows the way to Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio (left) during the welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, launching the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation © AFP

By Lucy Hornby in Beijing and David Pilling in London 

African leaders will step up their quest for more manufacturing investment from China next week as they converge on Beijing for a summit at which both sides will seek to extricate their relationship from charges of debt and dependency.

The triennial Forum on China Africa Cooperation has in the past been a catalyst for deepening ties, which a decade ago hinged on Beijing’s efforts to secure commodities such as oil and copper in return for infrastructure investment in African nations.

But African governments, partly under pressure from their own citizens, are planning to use this year’s meeting to push for deals that create domestic jobs and transfer skills and technology.

“We want a strategic relationship. Not just ‘you build us a bridge and we’ll give you money’,” said Kamissa Camara, a foreign policy adviser to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s recently re-elected president.

Ahead of the summit, African diplomats have mounted a co-ordinated push for Chinese commitments for fresh loans and, crucially, for manufacturing investment that could help employ a rising generation of urban youth.

Africa’s population, set to double by 2050, is the youngest and fastest-growing in the world. At the last FOCAC meeting in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60bn in grants and loans.

Attracting low-end manufacturing jobs being priced out of China could redress Africa’s trade deficits with Beijing, which has been a source of friction. Recovering oil and commodity prices have taken some of the sting out of the dispute, but African businesses blame Chinese imports for wiping out swaths of domestic manufacturing.

China’s African push lends it clout in a continent that has a love-hate relationship with former colonial powers. Dealing with China can improve an African nation’s bargaining position with Europe, the US and even other developing countries such as India or Turkey.

“A relationship with China rebalances our unbalanced relationship,” said Ms Camara. “We hope that when others see China getting involved in Mali, they too will be interested in investing.”

About 13 per cent of Chinese investment into Africa goes to manufacturing, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Africa has become a testing ground for China’s external initiatives from peacekeeping and debt negotiations to building consumer brands. Beijing has also wooed countries without commodities, especially Ethiopia, a fast-growing nation with a similar centrally controlled economy that is positioning itself as a manufacturing hub.

While Chinese investment in Africa has grown, reaching $2.4bn in 2016, it is dwarfed by a trade relationship worth $170bn last year.

China became Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009, as Chinese companies imported more African commodities. Meanwhile, Chinese manufactured goods make up more than 80 per cent of China’s exports to Africa. But as demand for commodities slowed, Africa’s trade deficit with China widened. In 2016, it was equivalent to Africa’s trade deficit with the rest of the world.

We want a strategic relationship. Not just ‘you build us a bridge and we’ll give you money’

Chinese bureaucrats complain that African markets are too small and fragmented for the big projects that state planners love. They grouse that African nations refuse to come up with regional plans for integrated development.

“The two sides have shared interests; for example some of the overcapacity China has is the capacity Africa needs,” said Shen Xiaolei, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “The African market is far from mature in most cities because the lack of middle class, but potentially it’s a very big market.”

Chinese state-owned groups do well at building debt-financed infrastructure, but have performed poorly in manufacturing. Their engagement has led to the rising debt levels have been the main factor in loan distress in Zambia and Brazzaville, according to the China Africa Research Initiative.

“In some aspects all of this looks good for Africa. It would appear there are new jobs being created and noticeable infrastructure improvements,” said David Alexander, whose Florida-based company, Baysource Global, advises businesses on offshoring. But the terms of infrastructure-focused financing could mean revenues accrue to Chinese investors, he warned.

As Chinese manufacturing gets more expensive or more difficult, many foreign-invested manufacturers are shifting out of coastal China to south-east Asia and Bangladesh. A few looked to Africa, particularly leather processors and glove manufacturers, said Deborah Brautigam, director of the China-Africa Research Initiative. “There’s room for Africa too.”

Twitter: @HornbyLucy

Additional reporting by Joseph Cotterill in Johannesburg and Xinning Liu and Archie Zhang in Beijing



US consumer confidence rises to 18-year high

August 28, 2018

Americans’ consumer confidence rose in August to the highest level in nearly 18 years as their assessment of current conditions improved further and their expectations about the future rebounded.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 133.4 in August, up from a reading 127.9 in July. It was the highest reading since confidence stood at 135.8 in October 2000.

Consumers’ confidence in their ability to get a job and the overall economy are seen as important indicators of how freely they will spend, especially on big-ticket items such as cars, in coming months. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Image result for U.S. shoppers, photos

“Expectations, which had declined in June and July, bounced back in August and continue to suggest solid economic growth for the remainder of 2018,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “These historically high confidence levels should continue to support health consumer spending in the near term.”

The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a 4.1 percent rate in the April-June quarter, the best performance since 2014. That estimate will be revised Wednesday. Many economists believe growth has slowed a bit in the current quarter to around 3 percent but will remain far ahead of the weak 2.2 percent GDP growth rate in the first quarter.

“Confidence is soaring to new heights which makes us bullish on growth and forecasts that this expansion may indeed shatter records for longevity next summer,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

The Associated Press

Boris Johnson: The state of Greece shows us why it is crucial to chuck the Chequers deal

August 27, 2018

The single currency remains an unmitigated disaster. One day it remains highly likely that it will implode. And in the meantime the experience of Greece alone is a lesson in the absolute insanity of any country allowing itself to be bullied by EU negotiators.


So it is “Cabin crew, doors to manual” and, as you settle back and prepare to hand over €20 for an easyMeal, you may be reflecting on that delightful week you just had in the Med – the bustling marinas, the crowded restaurants – and you may conceivably have been persuaded by all those UK cheerleaders for the EU that the euro crisis is indeed at an end.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

In the frenzied anti-establishment graffiti you see the rage of a lost generation of young people who still feel they have no hope of a job CREDIT: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP

You may now go along with the fashionable pro-EU narrative, that the nice Mr Draghi of the European Central Bank has cracked it, that the euro is in robust health, that Club Med countries are on the way to durable recoveries. And you may even ask yourself whether they are therefore right – those same London-based cheerleaders for the EU – when they say that this tentative euro recovery proves that the UK’s best bet is to stay in legal lockstep with Brussels, to the point of doing exactly what the EU tells us to do – even when we have no influence on those decisions.

Is that what you have concluded, after a week in the sun? If so, you have been drinking too much retsina. The euro crisis is far from over. The single currency remains an unmitigated disaster. One day it remains highly likely that it will implode. And in the meantime the experience of Greece alone is a lesson in the absolute insanity of any country allowing itself to be bullied by EU negotiators.

Drive around any big Greek city, away from the tourist spots, and in every boarded-up building and smashed window you see the devastation of Greek industry – which, in three years from 2010, went from boasting 80,000 factories to 57,000. In the frenzied anti-establishment graffiti you see the rage of a lost generation of young people who still feel they have no hope of a job. Overall unemployment is still running at 20 per cent; the economy is still a quarter smaller than in 2008; and there are an astonishing 35 per cent of people living in absolute poverty.

That is an extraordinary figure for an EU country; yet it is so high precisely because Greece is an EU country and meekly obeyed the prescriptions of Brussels. It wasn’t just that they could not (or dared not) reclaim their monetary independence. The Greeks were forced – mainly by Angela Merkel of Germany – to accept an austerity regime of draconian budget cuts that became a self‑perpetuating downwards cycle of economic decay.

It is absolutely crucial to understand that when the EU imposed this programme they were not thinking first of Greece or the Greek people. No, they were thinking of the EU; of the balance sheets of EU banks; of the risk to the euro of a Greek default. So the Greeks found themselves in the appalling position of negotiating with people who did not really have their interests at heart, and who believed furthermore that it was politically useful to make an example of Greece, and that Greek suffering might be a memento mori to anyone tempted to differ with the orthodoxy of Brussels (sound familiar?).

Ten years after the crisis began, it is just nonsense to believe that the EU project – to save the euro at all costs – has worked. Yes, Greece has become a kind of economic colony with many Greek assets (state telecoms, 14 regional airports) now owned by Germany. But the economy is still plagued by debt. And as you look around the Mediterranean, you can see elements of the same story: how the euro has not only failed in its objective, but produced the exact opposite of what was intended.

The economic advantages of monetary union were always sketchy – something to do with boosting cross‑border trade by reducing transaction costs. But as Helmut Kohl and others made clear, the real purpose was political – to knit the peoples of the EU together in a union of hearts and minds.

Neither outcome has happened. There has been no measurable intra-EU trade boost as a result of the euro; and instead of producing economic and political convergence, the euro has been a force for divergence, as the northern economies – mainly Germany – have done better, and the less productive economies have done worse, as so many economists predicted before the euro was launched.

Far from dissolving any political tensions between the nations and peoples of the EU, the euro has actually created tensions where none existed before. The last time I was in Athens, I actually heard an anti‑German demonstration outside the foreign ministry: that’s right, people marching against the paymaster of the EU. It would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and it is the direct result of the euro.

It is true that the Eurozone is benefiting from a general global economic upturn – hence the eager talk of the Remainers in the UK – but it is clear that the weaker economies, notably Italy, are in a much worse position than in 2008 to withstand the next economic shock, banking crisis or whatever. There will be such a shock, of course, and this time, for the euro, it could well be fatal.

In the meantime, the Greek suffering goes on, and the lesson is clear. As the former finance minister, Yannis Varoufakis, has explained, the tragedy of the Greeks was that they never had the nerve to tell their EU masters to get lost. They were never able to take back control, to run their economy in the interest of their electors.

That has a direct read-across for Britain. Under the Chequers proposals, we are about to make a historic mistake and turn this country into a rules-taker from Brussels, with no say on those rules – not just for industrial goods and agri-foods but across a wide range of economic activity. Look at the humiliation of Greece – an EU member – and ask yourself how the EU will legislate with the UK out of the room, and when we can no longer do anything to protect ourselves from the imposition of those rules. Will the EU act in our interests and the interests of UK jobs and growth, or the interests of the EU?

The answer is clear. It is written in graffiti all over Greece. Why, then, are we proposing to turn the UK, in important respects, into the perpetual punk of Brussels? Chuck Chequers.

Cincinnati Jail Spearheads Expanded Addiction Treatment Programs in Jail

August 27, 2018

A jail in Cincinnati is adding 92 new beds to help treat inmates with substance addiction.

The beds are part of two new jail wings at the Hamilton County Justice Center that are being retrofitted from existing space, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported . The project is funded through a $2.5 million state capital grant.

Image result for buprenorphine, photos

The men’s and women’s wings will help alleviate jail crowding and expand addiction treatment programs for those with substance use disorders, according to jail officials.

The jail, which was built to house 875 inmates, currently houses close to 1,600, Maj. Chris Ketterman, of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, said. Nearly a third of the jail’s inmates at any given time have addiction, according to Sheriff Jim Neil.

The jail’s health care provider, NaphCare, has been using buprenorphine since May to help inmates detox. Workers are detoxing about 500 people a month, including close to 400 who have an addiction to opioids, officials said.

“They’re feeling better quicker, and they’re staying alive, which is our main goal,” said Maria Perdikakis, health services administrator for NaphCare.

Ketterman said the effort to expand addiction treatment is both for the current needs of the inmates and to try and prevent them from returning to jail.

Inmates also receive help with re-entry skills. They are provided with contacts and training for community services, including housing and food and jobs once they are released from jail.

Community service organizations Talbert House and Addiction Services Council are helping with treatment efforts.

County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said the new wings are a “very humane approach” to the issues the justice center is seeing.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of December 2019, according to Ketterman.


Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer,

Image result for U.S. Jail, inside, photos

China’s student activists cast rare light on brewing labor unrest

August 16, 2018

When Shen Mengyu graduated with a master’s degree from a top Chinese university in 2015, she could have landed a comfortable job in government or at one of China’s internet giants.

.Image may contain: 6 people, people standing and outdoor

People hold banners at a demonstration in support of factory workers of Jasic Technology, outside Yanziling police station in Pingshan district, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong

Instead, she went to work at a car parts factory in the southern city of Guangzhou, pursuing her interest in labor activism.

In May, she was fired for organizing workers at the plant. Undeterred, she began advocating for workers trying to form an autonomous trade union at Jasic International, a welding machinery exporter in nearby Shenzhen.

Shen is part of a cohort of activists across China who have been supporting and publicizing worker protests and detentions at a time of slowing economic growth.

Image result for Jasic Technology, China, photos

The activists include students and recent graduates, as well as retired factory workers and Communist Party members.

While they appear to be small in number, the activists are drawing rare attention to calls for greater union representation from Chinese workers, particularly in the south, where demands for more pay are growing.

This unrest poses a challenge for the ruling Communist Party, which opposes independent labor action and punishes protesters. It also views the activists as a threat to its authority.

Shen told Reuters last week she believed the authorities had been intimidating her parents to get her to stop her activism.

On Saturday night, after dining with her parents near the Jasic factory, Shen was bundled into a car by three unidentified men, two student activists from Peking University who were at the scene told Reuters.

“Mengyu was shouting ‘What are you doing? Let me go, let me go’,” one of the activists said. “Everything happened so quickly, we ran to get help and by the time we came back she and the car had disappeared.”

The students said they reported the abduction to the police, who doubted their account and refused to take down crucial parts of their statement. They were also told that video cameras at the location of the incident were broken.

Calls to Shen and the police went unanswered on Monday.

Local police said on their official social media account Monday that they had been in contact with Shen’s parents.

“This is a matter regarding a family dispute, it is not a kidnapping,” it said, without further explanation. Reuters was unable to reach Shen’s parents.


Protests at the Jasic factory broke out in early July after seven workers attempting to form a union and elect their own leaders were laid off. On July 27, after two weeks of protests, the police detained 29 people, including laid-off workers, their families and supporters.

Hundreds of Chinese university students penned open letters on social media in support of the workers, and around 20 traveled to Shenzhen, in Guangdong province.

Unions in China have to register with the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Rights groups, however, say the federation is often more responsive to the demands of management than workers.

On August 6, around fifty student activists and supporters of the Jasic workers protested outside the police station where the workers were detained in Shenzhen.

People hold banners at a demonstration in support of factory workers of Jasic Technology, outside Yanziling police station in Pingshan district, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong

“Lots of fellow students say: this incident is about workers, what does this have to do with students? I’ll tell them one thing: today’s students are tomorrow’s workers,” said Yue Xin, 22, a recent graduate of Peking University, in a video from the protest she shared online.

Yue, currently a factory worker in southern China, gained prominence in April for pressing her university to make public an investigation into a decades-old rape and suicide case.

The people who traveled to Shenzhen have been facing pressure from their universities, parents and officials, according to nine activists interviewed by Reuters.

“My university advisor has called me repeatedly, accusing me of being involved in illegal activities, “ said one activist from a Guangdong university. The activist said he had been told “to think very carefully about what I was doing and how it might impact my studies and my future.”

Some supporters were intercepted on their way to Shenzhen and sent home, the students said.

In interviews, some activists said they were motivated by growing inequality in China, and heard about worker protests in online forums before posts were removed by authorities.

They said they were also exposed to labor issues at student-run university clubs and reading groups.

“Both my parents are factory workers so I have always had an interest in labor rights,” said one of the activists who saw Shen taken away.

The students often speak the same language of Marxist theory and egalitarianism used by the Communist Party, yet have found themselves at odds with the authorities.

Last November, a Peking University graduate, Zhang Yunfan, was detained in Guangzhou after founding a reading group focused on improving the plight of factory workers.

In an online statement on July 29, Jasic denied mistreating workers or blocking their union. It said it fired some workers in accordance with the law and that a union was being established. Jasic did not respond to a faxed request for further comment.

Shenzhen police said a group of former Jasic workers who illegally entered the factory were being held for investigation. The Shenzhen ministry of public security and the detention center where the workers are being held did not respond to faxed requests for comment.


The authorities have been keeping close tabs on the factory workers, students and other supporters, according to interviews and eyewitness accounts.

The students – who are renting accommodation near the Jasic factory – say they have had to move three times, as police pressure landlords to evict them.

People who appeared to be plain clothes police were keeping a close eye on the building where the activists were staying during a recent visit by Reuters.

The activists said police had also set up a fake factory recruitment stand outside the building and infiltrated into the group a mole posing as a former factory worker. The activists’ claims could not be verified by Reuters.

The factory workers and their supporters communicated with Reuters through multiple phone numbers and WeChat accounts that were continuously shut down.

China does not publish official statistics on numbers of worker protests and strikes.


Former workers at Jasic, which employs more than 1,000 people, say conditions in the company’s factory are dire.

“Sometimes we would work for one month straight without any time off,” said Huang Lanfeng, 25, a former Jasic employee who was detained for protesting. “They wouldn’t let us freely quit and they even watched us go to the toilet.”

She added: “I’ve worked at a lot of factories and none were as bad as Jasic.”

Geoffrey Crothall, communications director at the Kong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, said the protests could resonate at other factories.

“It certainly has the potential to be replicated if the workers from another factory are similarly motivated and well organized,” he said.

The Communist Party has pushed for unions to better protect workers, but the efforts were “superficial”, he said.

“It really does impinge on the party’s legitimacy.”


As of Sunday, 15 of the detained workers and supporters had been freed. Four detainees told Reuters they were treated harshly in detention, with police threatening them with death and saying they would not be released unless they confessed.

The workers’ accounts jibe with stories from detained advocates in other incidents and follow an established pattern of Chinese police interrogation, according to Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher at Amnesty International.

The detentions have become an even greater rallying cry for the activists.

“What started out as a labor dispute turned into unfair dismissals and police abuse which has galvanized supporters from both around the country and around the world,” Shen told Reuters on August 6, before she was taken away in the car.

Reporting by Sue-Lin Wong in SHENZHEN and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Additional reporting by the Shenzhen newsroom; Editing by Philip McClellan


Fact-checking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s media blitz

August 10, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old self-described “democratic socialist” who unexpectedly toppled a top Democratic incumbent in the primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District, is a sudden media star even though she has not been elected to Congress. (She has no real competition in the general election.)

With celebrity comes scrutiny. Ocasio-Cortez has come under fire for dismissing concerns about the anticipated costs of her proposals and offering too-glib answers.

For instance, in an appearance on CNN on Monday, when challenged on the costs of government-financed health care, she answered: “Why aren’t we incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who died because they can’t afford access to health care? That is part of the cost of our system.”


By Glenn Kessler
The Washington Post

Several readers have asked us to vet some of her claims and, because of summer vacation schedules, we’ve been a bit slower to follow up than our fact-checking colleagues. So here’s a quick roundup of some of her recent eyebrow-raising claims, though to be fair to Ocasio-Cortez, the average member of Congress might easily make many bloopers over the course of so many live interviews.

As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios in roundups. But we will be watching Ocasio-Cortez closely as she continues her media blitz. A spokesman for her campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.”
— interview on PBS’s “Firing Line,” July 13, 2018

This is an example of sweeping language — “everyone has two jobs” — that can get a rookie politician in trouble. She may personally know people who have two jobs, but the data is pretty clear that this statement is poppycock.

First of all, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the percentage of people working two jobs has actually declined since the Great Recession — and been relatively steady at around 5 percent since 2010. The percentage bounced around a bit but it was as low as 4.7 percent in October 2017 and was 5.2 percent in the July jobs report, the most recent available. That hardly adds up to “everyone.”

“After reaching a peak of 6.2 percent during 1995-96, the multiple job-holding rate began to recede,” the BLS noted in a report. “By the mid-2000s, the rate had declined to 5.2 percent and remained close to that level from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, the multiple job-holding rate decreased to 4.9 percent and has remained at 4.9 percent or 5.0 percent from 2010 to 2017.”

The July data shows most of these people juggling two jobs — 58 percent — have a primary job and a part-time job. Only 6 percent have two full-time jobs, which calls into question her claim that people are working “60, 70, 80 hours a week.” Indeed, the average hours worked per week for private employees has remained steady at just under 35 hours for years.

“ICE is the only criminal investigative agency, the only enforcement agency in the United States, that has a bed quota. So ICE is required to fill 34,000 beds with detainees every single night and that number has only been increasing since 2009.”
— in an interview with the Intercepted podcast, May 30

As our friends at PolitiFact documented, this is an urban legend. There is language in the 2016 appropriations bill that requires ICE to have 34,000 beds available — ICE “shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds through September 30, 2016” — but it is not required to fill them. The main point of such language, a version of which dated to 2009, is to make sure the money is not spent on something else.

In 2014, in an exchange with Republican lawmakers, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified that he did not view it as a mandate to fill the beds. “That’s beds, not people,” Johnson said.

In any case, the language was eliminated in the 2017 and 2018 appropriations bills. So it’s not even an issue anymore.

“They [national Democrats] were campaigning most when we had more of an American middle class. This upper-middle class is probably more moderate but that upper-middle class does not exist anymore in America.”
— interview on “Pod Save America,” Aug. 7

Here’s some more sweeping rhetoric. In knocking the current leaders of the Democrats, stuck in “ ’90s politics,” Ocasio-Cortez said the “upper-middle class does not exist anymore.”

But the data show that while the middle class overall may have shrunk a bit, the upper-middle class has actually grown. In a 2016 paper published by the Urban Institute, Stephen J. Rose documented that the upper-middle class has grown substantially, from 12.9 percent of the population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014. His analysis showed that there was a massive shift in the center of gravity of the economy, with an increasing share of income going to the upper-middle class and rich.

“In 1979, the middle class controlled a bit more than 46 percent of all incomes, and the upper-middle class and rich controlled 30 percent,” Rose wrote. “In contrast, in 2014 the rich and upper-middle class controlled 63 percent of all incomes (52 percent for the upper-middle class and 11 percent for the rich); the middle class share had shrunk to 26 percent; and the shares of the lower-middle class, poor, and near-poor had declined by half.”

“In a Koch brothers-funded study — if any study’s going to try to be a little bit slanted, it would be one funded by the Koch brothers — it shows that Medicare for all is actually much more, is actually much cheaper than the current system that we pay right now.”
— interview on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Aug. 8

We recently gave this sort of claim Three Pinocchios. Some Democrats have seized on a reference in a study released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which receives some funding from the Koch Foundation, that a Medicare-for-all plan advanced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would reduce the country’s overall level of health expenditures by $2 trillion from 2022 to 2031. That’s because the Sanders plan would slash payments to providers by 40 percent.

But the study makes clear that this is an unrealistic assumption and in fact the plan would raise government expenditures by $32.6 trillion over 10 years. Without the provider cuts, the additional federal budget cost would be nearly $40 trillion. So, no matter how you slice it, the study does not say it would be “much cheaper” than the current system.

“The reason that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act is because they ruled that each of these monthly payments that everyday American make is a tax. And so, while it may not seem like we pay that tax on April 15th, we pay it every single month or we do pay at tax season if we don’t buy, you know, these plans off of the exchange.”
— interview on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Aug. 8

This appears to be an example of not understanding policy nuances.

In the 5-4 opinion written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the Affordable Care Act was deemed to be an appropriate exercise of the government’s taxing power. But Roberts was not referring to the monthly premium payments, as Ocasio-Cortez claims. Instead, Roberts was referring to the individual mandate to buy insurance — and the requirement to pay an annual penalty when filing a tax return if one did not buy health insurance.

“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Roberts wrote. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

Ironically, the Obama administration had passed the law insisting the mandate was not a tax.

Iran impeaches labour minister

August 8, 2018

Iran’s Labour Minister Ali Rabiei was impeached on Wednesday after months of mounting anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis which has deepened with the return of US sanctions.

Rabiei lost a confidence motion in parliament by 129 votes to 111, giving President Hassan Rouhani three months to replace him.

© AFP/File | Iran’s Labour Minister Ali Rabiei, seen here addressing parliament on March 13, 2018, has been impeached amid mounting anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis which has deepened with the return of US sanctions

Rouhani has been under mounting pressure in recent weeks to reshuffle his economic team.

The withdrawal of the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal led to the first tranche of related sanctions being reimposed on Tuesday.

But Iran was already struggling with longstanding problems of unemployment and low investment, which his team has appeared powerless to tackle.

Rabiei, 62, is a longstanding ally of Rouhani, who also served as an adviser to reformist former president Mohammad Khatami between 1997 and 2005.