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In grips of political crisis, Haiti appoints new prime minister – Al Jazeera English

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Haiti has appointed a new prime minister, less than two weeks after President Jovenel Moise’s assassination threw the deeply divided Caribbean nation into greater political uncertainty.

Ariel Henry was sworn in during a ceremony in the capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, the same day that official commemorations were held to honour Moise.

The country’s acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said earlier this week that he would step down “for the good of the nation” after a key group of international diplomats on Saturday came out in support of Henry and urged him to form a new government.

A 71-year-old neurosurgeon and former cabinet minister, Henry said during the ceremony that the plans to meet with various sectors of society in the coming days to build a political consensus to address the problems Haiti faces.

“It is in the context of extreme polarisation … that we must find and implement a lasting solution to the multifaceted crisis with which we are confronted,” he said.

Moise was killed on July 7 when a group of gunmen stormed his private residence in Port-au-Prince and opened fire on him and his wife, Martine Moise, who was critically injured.

The assassination has thrust Haiti, which has experienced mounting gang violence and political instability for years, into further disarray. Three political leaders had been vying for the Haitian leadership in the aftermath of Moise’s death, including Henry, who was chosen as prime minister by Moise just days before the president was killed.

Robert Fatton, a Haitian politics expert at the University of Virginia, said Joseph’s departure was to be expected. “Joseph’s fate was sealed over the weekend,” Fatton told The Associated Press. “Everything that happens in Haiti has a powerful foreign component.”

On Saturday, the Core Group called for the creation of “a consensual and inclusive government” in Haiti and said it “strongly encourages” Henry as the designated prime minister “to form such a government”.

The Core Group is composed of ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, the European Union and representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from Miami, said Henry’s swearing-in marks “an important step for the stability of Haiti”.

“I think it’s important to note that this will be an interim government. The whole point here is that Haiti heads towards democratic elections towards the end of the year,” he said.

“The elections must be seen as free and fair and there has to be someone that wins with a decent majority because stability is what this is all about,” Gallacher added.

However, a main opposition coalition known as the Democratic and Popular Sector called Henry a puppet of the international community and rejected his appointment. “This step is only a political provocation that will add fuel to the fire and push the country further into crisis,” it said.

Leading Haitian civil society activists also recently questioned a push by the United States, United Nations and other international actors for Haiti to hold general elections this year, saying a vote would not solve the crisis in a country where many key institutions are not functioning.

Moise had been governing by decree since last year, and he spurred a constitutional crisis and mass protests in February when he insisted that he had a year left on his presidential term – a position that was rejected by opposition groups, rights groups and leading jurists.

Ariel Henry (R) attends an official ceremony in honour of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 20 [Valerie Baeriswyl/AFP]

On Tuesday, the government released the names of Henry’s 18-member cabinet, with the ministers of justice, economy, finance, agriculture and others keeping their positions. Joseph will return to his former post as foreign minister.

In addition to running the government, Henry will serve as minister of social affairs and labour.

He had earlier promised to form a provisional consensus government to lead Haiti until elections are held. “We will need this unity to overcome the many challenges that beset us,” Henry said. “Some have observed the latest events with amazement, others wonder with reason about the management of the country.”

Henry also had said he met with various unidentified actors as well as civil society and the private sector. “I intend to continue and deepen these discussions, because it is the only way to bring the Haitian family together,” he said.

Meanwhile, many questions remain unanswered about Moise’s assassination, including the motive and who was ultimately behind it.

Haitian Police chief Leon Charles on Tuesday announced four more formal arrests, including at least three police officers, whose ranks he did not release. “There was infiltration in the police,” said Charles, without providing additional details.

The Haitian authorities have accused a gang of mercenaries of carrying out the killing. To date, 26 suspects – 18 Colombians, five Haitians and three Haitian-Americans – have been arrested.

Moise’s funeral will be held in the northern city of Cap-Haitien on Friday.

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Analysis | How to reverse the politics of coronavirus vaccines, as demonstrated by Fox News – The Washington Post

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One underrecognized aspect of American politics is that most of the people who voted for Donald Trump last year live in states that cast more votes for Joe Biden. At a county level, that’s not true; most Trump voters live in counties that voted for Trump. But not by much: About 45 percent of Trump voters live in counties that preferred Biden.

Why? Well, because a lot of people live in big cities, and big cities are often heavily Democratic. While 55 percent of Republicans live in counties that voted for Trump, 55 percent also live in the 300-odd places that are the most heavily populated 10 percent of counties in the United States. (More than three-quarters of Democrats live in those counties; as a corollary, about 73 percent of Democrats live in counties won by Biden.)

The point is straightforward: Places with more people have more people. This is not what one would call a staggering insight, but it’s worth reiterating since people tend to think of heavily populated places as overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, the most populous counties in the country are less robustly Democratic than the least populous ones are Republican. The 623 least populous counties preferred Trump by 46 points. The 623 most populous counties preferred Biden by less than one-third of that margin.

(The chart below looks at deciles of counties; that is, one-tenth of all counties, ranked from the least to the most populous.)

Why are we going over this? Because of the attempt by Fox News’s Jesse Watters to suggest that, of the current surge in coronavirus infections,
“all of the hot spots are in huge Democrat cities.”

He said this on Friday, even as he (thankfully) encouraged getting more people vaccinated. But he did so while clearly attempting to cast blame for the surge on Democrats — trying to reverse the recent emphasis on the surge of infections in heavily Republican areas, since those places are less likely to be heavily vaccinated. In a statement provided to Mediaite, he tried to defend the claim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s categorization of places with substantial rates of transmission “applies to nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States … Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, St. Louis, etc. … according to the ‘hot spot’ county map highlighted on the CDC website,” the statement said. “Plus, anyone with common sense understands that 3.5M unvaccinated New York residents living within 300 square miles of each other, is more of a so-called ‘hot spot,’ than just 388,000 unvaccinated Wyoming residents living within 98,000 square miles of each other.”

This is pretty lazy stuff, even for Watters. He first cites the CDC’s definition, pointing out that applies to big cities — though without pointing out that it also applies to hundreds of small counties. Then he throws out the CDC’s definition of a hot spot in favor of his own, in which he begs the question by declaring a hot spot to depend on population density.

So let’s look at the actual numbers, shall we?

There is, in fact, a relationship between the average number of new cases in a county and the county population, according to counties for which we have data. Los Angeles County has seen a lot of new cases in the past two weeks (which is the time period indicated on the graph below), but it also has millions of residents.

But the CDC, not new to this, is familiar with how population works. So it defines community transmission relative to population. It uses two metrics — the rate of cases per 100,000 residents and the rate of positive tests — to determine the places with “substantial” or “high” transmission.

If we plot population against the rate of cases per 100,000 residents, the picture shifts. In the least-populated decile of counties, 69 percent have transmission rates above the median. In the most-populated decile, 54 percent do.

We can look at this another way. Over the past two weeks, most new cases have been in the most populous places for the same reason that so many Trump voters live in Biden counties. Adjusted for population, though, the hardest-hit places shift to the middle of the pack.

If Los Angeles was seeing the same rate of infections as the hardest-hit small county — Sullivan County, Mo. — it would be seeing ten times the number of new cases each day.

It’s true, as Watters points out, that more unvaccinated people live in blue states, since those states have more people. But as of two weeks ago, more unvaccinated adults lived in red states even though those states have fewer adult residents. This issue of vaccination is entirely the point, of course, with places that have lower rates of vaccination seeing more new cases per resident.

The vaccination data, compiled by the CDC, are imperfect, but you can clearly see the pattern below. More than a third of the country lives in the 2,300-odd counties in which more than half the population hasn’t received at least one dose of the vaccine.

What’s particularly alarming is how many seniors have not been fully vaccinated. In more than half of counties, according to the CDC data, fewer than half of those over age 65 have been fully vaccinated.

But this is just running Watters’s playbook in reverse. In the most densely populated counties, home to two-thirds of the population, more than three-quarters of those aged 65 and over have been fully vaccinated.

The risk remains high in places with lower vaccination rates, not just places with more unvaccinated people. Those places are generally places that voted more heavily for Trump in 2020. And the correlation between the two makes sense, given Trump’s — and Fox News’s — rhetoric.

“We have to do away with all the politics and just try to get people vaxxed,” Watters said on Friday. Fine. Let’s.

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Is Kamala Harris Really Bad at Politics? – Bloomberg

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Who was the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020?

The reason the topic comes up is that opponents of Vice President Kamala Harris seem to have settled on an attack line against her: As a Washington Examiner columnist argued a few weeks ago, she’s “bad at politics.” It’s something that I see pretty often in reader emails and on Twitter, mostly from Republicans but in some cases from liberal Democrats. There’s no surprise here; the vice presidency makes everyone look bad, and the idea that the first Black and Asian-American woman to hold this office is not up to the job is consistent with certain stereotypes. 

It’s also preposterous. Yes, once nominated almost anyone can win a general election, and perhaps every once in a while a nomination is just luck — in fact, I’ve argued that Donald Trump’s first nomination was largely a fluke. But Harris managed to work her way up in local and state politics in California, without money or family connections on her side, winning multiple nominations. That’s the mark of a good politician. So, for that matter, is securing the vice-presidential nod. Using presidential nomination results as evidence of a politician’s weakness is like criticizing someone for failing to medal in the Olympics; just getting into the competition is usually evidence of considerable ability.

Granted, after entering the contest, Harris dropped out before the first vote in Iowa. But whether we should consider her effort a flop gets back to the question I started with: Who was the runner-up to Joe Biden? 

You can make the case for several candidates. Bernie Sanders is the most obvious one, given that he finished second in delegates, states won and overall votes. But there’s reason to think he wasn’t the candidate who came closest. The evidence suggests that a solid majority of Democratic party actors, and perhaps of voters overall, was prepared to support anyone but Sanders. If that’s the case, then he really had only a small chance of winning and I’m not sure it makes sense to call him the runner-up.

If not Sanders, who? Pete Buttigieg at least managed to win an important state — Iowa — and finished second in New Hampshire. But Buttigieg sparked even less enthusiasm among party actors than Sanders did. There’s even a case to be made for Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren. Both had some backing from party actors; both had occasional (albeit small) surges of support among voters. Suppose that their strong debates right before the New Hampshire primary (for Klobuchar) or Nevada (for Warren) had taken place in November or December, in time for them to really capitalize on it? It’s not hard to imagine Klobuchar or Warren, rather than Buttigieg, emerging from the pack in Iowa, and perhaps either senator would’ve been better positioned to take advantage of it.

The counterargument is that none of these candidates had any Black support, and without that they were doomed in South Carolina and in most of the rest of the primaries. We don’t get to rerun the contest to see whether Representative James Clyburn would’ve endorsed whoever looked most viable after the Nevada caucuses. But Harris, despite her early exit, may have been closer to the nomination than she’s usually given credit for. She did enjoy a brief polling surge after a strong early debate, which turned out to be mistimed. And she won some party-actor support. Perhaps there are fewer what-ifs involved in projecting her into the nomination than there are for some of the other also-rans.

You certainly don’t have to buy that argument — I’m not sure I do — to concede that the vice president has some valuable political skills. Mostly, however, I think the question about the runner-up is useful because answering it involves thinking carefully about what really goes into winning presidential nominations, and helps clarify what we really know and what we’re not sure about. 

1. Paul Musgrave on the Olympics and nationalism

2. Kim Yi Dionne and Laura Seay at the Monkey Cage on three new books on Kenya.

3. Good Dan Drezner on the historical and current importance of Fox News.

4. Kevin Drum also on Fox News.

5. Sahil Kapur and Benjy Sarlin with good speculation about Mitch McConnell’s thinking about infrastructure.

6. And Jamelle Bouie on voting-rights history.

Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox. Click here to subscribe. Also subscribe to Bloomberg All Access and get much, much more. You’ll receive our unmatched global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, the Bloomberg Open and the Bloomberg Close.

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Infrastructure Bill Shows That US Politics Are Not (Yet) Broken – Bloomberg

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As President Joe Biden moves toward another legislative victory — namely, the $550 billion infrastructure bill — it’s worth asking what its success says about American politics. Mostly it’s good news, whether or not you agree with the policies of the Biden administration.

The most enduring truth is that the median voter theorem, as social scientists refer to it, continues to explain a lot of political outcomes. In an era supposedly marked by gridlock and polarization, a centrist infrastructure bill is on the verge of passage.

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