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5 Things To Watch This Week In Politics And Protests – NPR

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President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for Independence Day events Friday at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images


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Updated 10:45 a.m. ET

In an unusually divisive speech for a president on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, President Trump on Friday decried a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for.”

What is it? Terrorism? Polarization? A lack of trust in institutions?

No, Trump said at Mount Rushmore, it’s an attempt to erase American history and values. And one part of that, Trump said, is “cancel culture,” which he described as “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism … .”

Cancel culture is a form of group shaming — excluding someone who has done something objectionable or offensive, or withdrawing support from corporations or public leaders for the same reason. It’s often pushed from the left of the political spectrum, and there are certainly those who think it’s gone too far in some instances.

Apart from the merits of the argument, it’s ironic that Trump is arguing for inclusivity. The fact is, there are few quicker than Trump to “cancel” people for not believing the same as he does — or supporting him faithfully. He just doesn’t call it that.

On Monday morning, Trump went further, launching a baseless attack on NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver on the circuit. It was reported that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage. The FBI determined it was a pull cord. Wallace isn’t the one who found it or reported it — and yet Trump is calling it a “hoax” and claiming that incident and banning the Confederate flag “has caused lowest ratings EVER!” — as if that’s what really matters.

Driver Tyler Reddick responded to Trump, saying, “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”

Trump’s emphasis on cancel culture — another element of his broader culture war — can be seen as a distraction, a shiny metal object that Trump wants to use to switch the narrative and see if it sticks because he is struggling in his reelection bid.

But there are things in all likelihood that will shape this presidential election far more than “cancel culture.” Here are six, from public opinion surveys:

58% — Trump’s record disapproval: The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating was 58%, the highest of his presidency. What’s more, 49% “strongly” disapprove of the job he’s doing. That kind of intense opposition to a president has never been seen before, since polling began.

87% — Dissatisfaction is the highest of Trump’s presidency: Amid this coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic freefall, the Pew Research Center recently found that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. And 71% say they are angry, 66% say they’re fearful and just 17% are proud of the way things are going.

56% — Trump’s (mis)handling of the coronavirus: About 130,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. That’s about a quarter of all the deaths worldwide.

And an average of 56% of people disapprove of his response to the pandemic, the highest level so far. That’s taken its toll on Trump politically, especially as states in more politically conservative places are seeing spikes in cases and hospitalizations. Pew found Democrat Joe Biden has an 11-point advantage on who’s best to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 52% to 41%. Fifty-two also happens to be the percentage of voters saying they would vote for Biden over Trump in the general election, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

67% — Making racial tensions worse: A separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, conducted in early June, found two-thirds of Americans thought Trump mostly made racial tensions worse. That was after a week of protests and right after law enforcement forcibly removed peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could walk to a partially burned church across the street and pose with a Bible.

Yet Trump has only doubled down since then. He’s not only pushed a “law and order” message but amped it up, saying, for instance, if “Black Lives Matter” were painted on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, it would be a “symbol of hate.”

Another eyebrow-raising number is the 52% who now say they are in favor of removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Three years ago, 39% said so.

47% — An economic handling decline: Gallup found that from January to June, the percentage of Americans approving of the job Trump’s doing on the economy declined 16 points, from 63% to 47%. The strong economy was undoubtedly buoying Trump to some extent, and now it’s not. Trump’s lead over Biden on handling of the economy has shrunk, though he’s still up on the question in most polls.

35% — Trump’s suburban cratering: One set of numbers that will make you rub your eyes is about suburban voters. In 2016, Trump won suburban voters, 49% to 45%, according to exit polls. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, though, has Trump losing them by a whopping 60% to 35%. That’s not a typo. That’s a 29-point swing, from +4 to -25. That kind of cratering in the suburbs is part of why Democrats won the House in 2018, are favored to keep it in 2020, and have made inroads with an unfavorable Senate map. It’s tough to see Trump winning reelection without turning things around in the suburbs.

Overall, these numbers aren’t great for Trump. One saving grace is that his supporters love him — and intensely so. His base is more enthusiastic about voting for him than potential Biden voters are for voting for the former vice president, and that’s a wildcard to watch. But while enthusiasm is important, it doesn’t always translate into more votes. Reelections, after all, are always about the sitting president. Trump may wind up driving his base out to vote, but also Democrats in opposition to him.


5 things to watch this week:

Trump meets with New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew on Dec. 19, 2019, before he switched parties from Democrat to Republican.

Evan Vucci/AP


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Evan Vucci/AP

1. Woke up this morning … and there were more elections on Tuesday: There are primaries in two states, New Jersey and Delaware.

The race to watch is in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Democratic candidates are vying to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican during Trump’s impeachment. Five Democrats are on the ballot, and the race is largely between Amy Kennedy and Brigid Callahan Harrison. Kennedy, a former educator, is a member of the politically elite Kennedy family. (She’s married to former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.) She also has the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. But Harrison has the endorsement of South Jersey power broker George Norcross and state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

2. Trump to Florida, New Hampshire: Want another sign of what the battleground states are? Look at Trump’s travel this week. He’s set to hold a high-dollar — in-person — fundraiser in Florida this week and then head to New Hampshire, where he will hold an outdoor rally Saturday. It’s his first attempt at a rally since his underwhelming (indoor) event in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s Florida fundraiser is reportedly for $580,600 per couple. Trump and the Republican National Committee trailed Biden and the Democratic National Committee in fundraising, $141 million to $131 million, in June.

3. Awaiting more key Supreme Court decisions: There are more decisions coming from the Supreme Court — as early as Monday — including on whether Trump can block disclosure of his financial records and whether lay teachers at parochial schools are protected by the civil rights laws.

4. The Pentagon and protests: The hearing to watch this week on Capitol Hill involves the Department of Defense’s role in civilian law enforcement. Slated to testify Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee are Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Milley last month said he regretted his role in Trump’s walk to the partially burned church across the street from the White House. And Esper broke with the president and said, “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”

5. Mexico’s president will visit the White House: In his first U.S. trip, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will visit Washington Wednesday to commemorate the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada, or USMCA, trade agreement. López Obrador is seen as friendlier to Trump than past Mexican presidents, and they also share another thing in common — a dislike of the media. He wondered aloud this weekend of what he calls the “corrupt media”: “How much are they paid to attack me?”


Quote of the weekend:

“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future.”

— Kanye West announces his 2020 run for president on Twitter on July Fourth

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Timeline: Thailand's turbulent politics since 2014 military coup – The Journal Pioneer

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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai protesters, led by student groups, are returning to the streets calling for the ousting of the government less than two years after a general election was held. One group has openly criticised the monarchy, in a rare show of defiance.

Here are the major events that have led up to these protests:

May 22, 2014 – Military stages a coup, ousting an elected government for the second time in a decade, citing the need to restore order in the face of street demonstrations against a populist government linked to telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Oct. 13, 2016 – Constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after a 70-year reign. His son becomes King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

April 6, 2017 – A military-backed constitution is ratified after being approved in a referendum, with changes requested by King Vajiralongkorn that increased his powers, paving the way for an election.

Feb. 7, 2019 – The king rebukes his sister, Princess Ubolratana, over a Thaksin-linked party’s nomination of her as its candidate for prime minister. The party is later dissolved by a court before the election.

March 24, 2019 – General elections held amid complaints of cheating and vote-buying. Former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and was then prime minister of a military government, heads a pro-army party that wins the most votes.

Nov. 20, 2019 – Court disqualifies rising opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, from parliament prompting thousands to rally in Bangkok.

Jan. 12, 2020 – More than 12,000 people join an anti-government “Run Against Dictatorship” in the biggest show of dissent since the 2014 coup. A rival group holds a run in support of Prayuth.

Feb. 21 – Future Forward Party is banned for illegally taking a loan from its billionaire leader, Thanathorn, prompting small student protests on university campuses.

March 22 – Given restrictions to stop the novel coronavirus, student protests peter out but online criticism of government continues, with some also directing criticism at the king. The hashtag “#whydoweneedaking?” is posted more than 1 million times.

June 8 – Small protests held to call for an investigation into the disappearance of an exiled government critic in Cambodia.

June 15 – Prayuth warns political activists not to criticise the monarchy.

June 24 – Protesters gather to mark the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

July 18 – About 2,500 protesters gather at Democracy Monument, one of the largest demonstrations since the coup, calling for the dissolution of parliament and new elections.

Aug. 4 – Speakers call for the monarchy’s power to be curbed at a rally attended by hundreds in Bangkok.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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'Sheep without a shepherd': Hong Kong churches torn by politics – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Yanni Chow

HONG KONG (Reuters) – When Hong Kong’s largely peaceful pro-democracy protests turned violent last summer, it drove a wedge through every section of society, dividing friends, families and also worshippers at its more than 1,500 churches.

The majority of people in Hong Kong follow some form of Buddhist, Taoist or other traditional Chinese religion, but the former British colony has about 900,000 practicing Christians, about 12% of the population according to government figures, split almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. There is no consensus among them about the protests or China’s tightening grip on the city.

Canaan Wong, Blesson Chan and Kristy Chan, all in their mid-20s, are part of a group of about 40 people who in late June quit their positions as mentors and teachers at the evangelical Tung Fook Church, because they said they felt pressure from senior church leaders to keep quiet about political matters.

They said several pastors were told by church leaders to remove their names from public statements opposing a bill last year that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, the issue which sparked the protests. The bill was eventually withdrawn. The three said they did not know which church leaders, or how many, were telling pastors to remove their names.

“It sends chills down our spine with such self-censoring,” said Wong. “This shows that in this church, politics clearly overrides religion and truth.”

The group wants the church to speak up on political issues, such as the new national security law enacted by China on June 30, which makes anything that Beijing regards as subversion or promoting independence punishable by life in prison.

“We are not asking for a yellow church,” said Blesson Chan, using the local shorthand for pro-democracy. “We just feel that church is a part of the society and should not be hiding up in an ivory tower.”

The group is set to have talks with leaders of the church, which is located next to the headquarters of China’s new national security agency in Hong Kong, about how to resolve their issues. A representative for Tung Fook church said it wanted to “enhance communication and eliminate misunderstanding” with the group.

If the church does not take a stand, the three said they feared it will end up resembling the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a Protestant organization in mainland China that is closely controlled by the state and whose leaders staunchly support the Chinese Communist Party.

The National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China declined to comment.

Although China is an officially atheist state, it does allow certain state-supervised religious organizations, such as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, to operate. However, Beijing has closed down many so-called underground or house churches outside the state-controlled system and has imprisoned worshippers on the grounds that they are more loyal to their religion than to the Chinese state.

Chinese authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

‘TEAM JESUS’

On the other side of the divide is a 49-year-old police officer, who said he left the Christian and Missionary Alliance Tak Tsuen Church after 14 years last June, when he was abused by fellow worshippers who told him the police deserved to be attacked by protesters.

“As Christians, seeing the police bleed and wounded, how can you think it’s good and we deserve it?” said Sing, who asked to be identified by only one name. The church did not reply to a request for comment.

Shortly after, the policeman joined Trinity Theology Baptist Church, set up by former police officer Ricky Wong, 54, as a refuge for police who felt unwelcome elsewhere.

“I want to minimize my brothers’ and sisters’ hatred towards the yellow camp,” Wong told Reuters, referring to the general opposition among police officers to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

“When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” said Wong, quoting a passage from the Bible. “These people are also lambs.”

Wong said the 120 or so members of his church, which include many members of the uniformed services plus some doctors and teachers, pray at secret locations for fear of being targeted by pro-democracy activists.

Despite his concern about the yellow camp, Wong said he did not identify as blue, or pro-Beijing. Instead, he described his congregation as “Team Jesus.”

ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD

When China took back control of Hong Kong in 1997, it adopted the principle of “one country, two systems” and agreed to uphold the territory’s Basic Law, its de facto constitution, which includes the freedom of speech and religion.

That principle is now seen to be under threat after China imposed the new national security law, which supporters say will bring stability to the financial hub, but critics say will crush all forms of freedom.

Hong Kong’s government did not reply to a request for comment. It has said previously the new security law preserves “the basic rights and freedom lawfully enjoyed by law-abiding citizens.” The law makes no mention of religious groups.

Nevertheless, church leaders are treading cautiously.

A day before the law was imposed, Lo Hing-choi, president of the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong, the umbrella group for the city’s 164 Baptist congregations, posted a message critical of the law on the convention’s website, but took it down a day later.

“We expect the government to enact just laws to make society harmonious and stable,” said Lo in the withdrawn post, arguing that the new security law could not achieve long-term stability and that only a truly democratic system would lead to prosperity. 

Lo, 68, told Reuters he was unnerved by an anonymous caller who accused him of encouraging violence.

Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper controlled by the Chinese state, singled out Lo for what it called “hijacking the churches.” The newspaper did not reply to a request for comment.

“In churches now, different people, different political stances are constantly fighting,” said Wong. “Right now, I don’t think the rift in our society can be mended.”

(Reporting By Yanni Chow in Hong Kong; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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The politics of fiscal relief is failing Americans – Financial Times

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In one of its worst-ever years in peacetime, the US has been able to nurse a consolation. As badly as it handled the Covid-19 pandemic, it was quick to soften the economic effects. Fiscal relief for a shuttered economy achieved bipartisan support in March. The $2tn Cares Act — worth roughly a tenth of national output — raised unemployment benefit, offered credit to companies and shored up state governments. Given the initial defeat of the 2008 bank bailout in Congress, none of this was inevitable.

Even this solace, it seems, is shortlived. Another round of fiscal intervention is clearly necessary. Continuing hardship, a surge in infections and the re-closing of many businesses that had opened put that beyond doubt. This time, however, the politics is failing.

Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the size or duration of another bill. Among the unseen victims in this tiff are the recipients of the extra $600 in weekly unemployment aid that passed in March. It ran out on July 31. Democrats want to extend it until the end of the year, while Republicans cite the moral hazard of disincentivising work. Democrats propose $3.4tn in total stimulus. Republicans balk at that cost.

It is not frivolous to worry about intervention on this scale. It can have distorting effects and lead to waste. A return to some semblance of normality will involve unpicking this tapestry of fiscal transfers and lines of credit. Such is the nature of the crisis, however, that politicians must for now err on the side of action. Congress debates at leisure: the human cost in lay-offs and home-evictions mounts at pace. In haggling over aid, to the unemployed for instance, the bias of lawmakers should be towards generosity, and towards speed.

Ideally, it would be enough to appeal to conscience. If this is not enough, then lawmakers should remember that the jobless rolls include many of their own voters (they are simply too large not to) and that an election is less than three months off.

As well as the domestic suffering, Congress should also heed the implications for a world economy that America helps to drive. The first bill was an international event. If it transpires, this one will be, too. Jay Powell, chosen to chair the Federal Reserve by President Donald Trump and hardly a notorious socialist, urges against premature withdrawal of government support.

It would help matters if Mr Trump took a lead. He is less of an ideological free marketeer than many of his partisan colleagues, including Larry Kudlow, his economic adviser. Tellingly, the president made sure to associate himself with the original stimulus in the Cares Act. With the presidential election in the offing, he has an interest in what is proving to be popular intervention in the economy.

Of late, though, Mr Trump’s contribution has been to suggest a cut in payroll taxes. (“What payroll?” those without jobs will ask). He also repeated insinuations on Wednesday that Democrats want to bail out states they run. The first notion is one his own side say they will not support. The second just sours the cross-partisan mood that is needed for a deal.

In the end, this unprecedented intervention will have to be paid for through some blend of tax, borrowing and cuts to spending. Politicians who dread the growth of government, or of the deficit, should certainly set out a path to a more “normal” state of fiscal affairs. In the meantime, however, a devastated economy needs their help. An often traduced Washington salvaged some of its reputation in the spring. It is close to forfeiting it all over again.

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