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TikTok And Instagram Users Find Their Political Voice – Forbes

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TikTok users’ call to arms to artificially inflate registrations for Trump’s Tulsa rally is indicative of the evolving role social media is playing in the forthcoming US elections. Social media has a checkered past and present with politics, but until now controversy tended to be between politicians and platforms. This election, it is the billions of social media users who are moving the needle.

The Spotlight Is Changing

Fake news and the Cambridge Analytics scandal marred America’s last Presidential election. The extent to which it swayed voters is challenging to decipher, but ultimately unscrupulous partners found a way to take advantage of gaps in the system. It rightly forced the platforms to change. Political advertising was banned from Twitter outright. Facebook didn’t go as far, but implemented more robust approval systems on political ads, alongside building an army of 15,000 content moderators fact checking posts. 

But politics is a relevant cultural conversation and the nature of social media platforms is to provide an outlet for this. Twitter’s short text dialogue suits Trump’s whimsical ideas and journalists’ quick-witted opinions. The average Facebook user in the US is now 40 years old and they want to share the issues which are important to them. The relevancy of these platforms is still evident, but prior to 2020, politics rarely surfaced in the world of Instagram or TikTok. These platforms are predominantly filled with users under the age of 30 posting content that is aspirational and fun. Content which rarely suits a political agenda.

Social Media For Social Awareness 

In March this year, virus-related content quickly found its place and tone on Instagram and TikTok. Face-mask selfies became popularized, and feeds filled up with filtered views of empty cities and isolation inspired activities and challenges. Younger users of these platforms have far less health risks attached to the virus so naturally content was playful, and in most parts helpful to stay-at-home messaging. 

Playful turned impactful after the devastating death of George Floyd. Instagram became a unified home for the Black Lives Matter movement and in support of the cause, 25 million users posted plain black screens instead of their usual content with the hashtag #blackouttuesday. For context, usage of the #trump2020 hashtag since his campaign launch (2 million posts) is less than 10% of the #blacklivesmatter conversation (22 million posts), whilst the predominant #trumprallyfail hashtag from the ill-fated rally attracted 270 thousand tweets on the day. The power of social media in galvanizing the masses to a single relevant topic of conversation is impossible to ignore. Whilst under-handed, the one million fake registrations for the Tulsa event further demonstrates this influence.

Will It Make A Difference?

The spread of social and political awareness reflected by Instagram and TikTok users is not the only force for change.

The impact of the virus on youth is staggering. Beneath the surface of America’s current 13.3% unemployment rate, is unemployment of 29.8% for 18-19 year-olds, and 23.2% for 20-24-year-olds. While government stimulus has done a great job in masking the true impact of job losses on younger demographics, second waves of the virus and a recession will drive this message home. Voter turnout for those under 30 is consistently the lowest represented age group, with 46.1% of them having their say in 2016. Compare this to 70.9% of those over the 65 voting. The capacity for younger voters to impact an outcome by simply turning up to vote is evident.

In 2008 and 2012 with Obama’s candidacy, there was a significantly higher turnout percentage amongst young black voters compared to young white voters. Two white candidates in 2016 saw this statistic retreat. This year, the absence of a black candidate may have repeated this trend, but for the recency and relevancy of the Black Lives Matter movement. For young black voters, it is a compelling time to have their say.

Within the sweeping and devastating changes the virus has enforced on the world, the rising interest in politics amongst young voters must be considered a positive. Despite the debate around the personal involvement of social media chiefs, Instagram and TikTok users are playing a part. If this leads to voter turnout, then democracy is the prevailing winner.

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Politics, pandemics and Russian aluminum: why Canada faces fresh U.S. tariffs – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Why the United States chose to taint the debut of North America’s celebrated new trade deal by threatening fresh tariffs against Canadian aluminum, only President Donald Trump and trade emissary Robert Lighthizer can say for sure.

But industry insiders point to a convergence of disparate factors: COVID-19, international metals arbitrage, presidential politics and $16.3-billion worth of the stuff from Russia, the world’s second-largest producer.

Aluminum is one of the elemental components of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship, a bond forged in the blast furnace of the American war effort. Experts say smelters on both sides of the border stand to benefit from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which took effect Wednesday and imposes new requirements for regionally sourced metals.

Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada, is at a loss to understand why his industry is being targeted by the White House for the second time in two years. The U.S. has nowhere near the capacity to meet growing demand.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Simard said. “It’s like an oxymoron. It’s so contradictory to the spirit of USMCA.”

The answer may lie in how aluminum production works around the world, and how traders and marketers profit from it.

Because they traffic in white-hot liquid metal, aluminum smelters can’t simply shut down when demand for the product dries up, which is what happened to Canadian producers — who provide the bulk of the metal to U.S. markets — when the pandemic forced auto manufacturers to idle their assembly lines.

Smelters pivoted away from the specialized premium products demanded by the auto sector and instead produced the more generic primary aluminum known as P1020, shipping it to the only storage warehouses that are cost-effective, Simard said: facilities in the U.S., which is where the lion’s share of the North American aluminum market is located.

The ensuing “surge” in Canadian imports caught the attention of the U.S. trade representative’s office — or more specifically, the two U.S. producers that raised a red flag: Century Aluminum and Magnitude 7 Metals, which together comprise a Trump-friendly lobbying effort known as the American Primary Aluminum Association.

“The surge of Canadian metal has a caused the price to collapse and is endangering the future viability of the U.S. primary industry,” the association wrote to Lighthizer in May.

“Action — real action, not mere monitoring, and endless discussions in multinational fora — is needed now if the United States is to save what is left of its primary aluminum industry.”

A separate group — the Aluminum Association, which represents dozens of U.S. and international producers — disagrees, calling Canadian suppliers an integral element of the North American supply chain and a key component of the industry’s success.

Politics is undoubtedly a factor: two of Century’s four smelters are in Kentucky, while Magnitude 7 operates in Missouri, two states vital to Trump’s electoral fortunes.

“These are the states that keep campaign managers up at night,” said Gerald McDermott, an international business professor at the University of South Carolina.

A spokesman for the American Primary Aluminum Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Glencore Plc, a metals trader and producer based in Switzerland, holds a 47 per cent stake in Century. Magnitude 7, founded by a former Glencore aluminum trader, operates a single Missouri plant that won a new lease on life after Trump’s first round of tariffs in 2018, but which warned in February it was on the verge of shutting down.

And Glencore holds the exclusive rights to sell Russian-made aluminum in the U.S., having agreed in April to spend $16.3 billion over the next five years on up to 6.9 million tonnes of the metal from Rusal, the second-largest aluminum producer in the world.

Glencore is also a major player in the world of metals arbitrage — buying commodities at the lowest price possible, then shipping and storing them before selling on a futures contract in hopes of a higher price. The pandemic has fuelled a global collapse in the price of aluminum, Simard said, while the threat of tariffs has had the opposite effect.

“What do the traders do? They buy the metal at a very low price because the crisis is what brought you to pivot to this position, and they warehouse it when interest rates are very low because it’s a crisis,” Simard said.

“The key player over and above everybody else is Glencore.”

Rusal, once controlled by the Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was subject to U.S. sanctions since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 — sanctions that were lifted in January 2019 as part of an extensive restructuring that saw Deripaska relinquish control of the company. Glencore was involved, too, swapping shares in Rusal for a direct stake in its parent company, En+.

The USTR and the Trump administration “cannot be unaware of the corporate structure around Rusal and Glencore. I would doubt it very much,” said Simard.

A spokesman for Glencore declined to comment Friday.

The Canadian aluminum industry, the bulk of which is located in Quebec, owes its origins to soaring American demand for the metal in the months prior to the U.S. entry into the Second World War — a partnership that cemented Canada’s role in the continental military industrial base. Is the Trump administration trying to end that relationship?

“It’s worth raising the question,” Simard said.

Trump’s disdain for Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long been an open secret — “Trudeau’s a ‘behind-your-back’ guy,” former national security adviser John Bolton’s explosive new book quotes the president saying — and with an uphill battle for re-election looming, he may be looking to score political points, McDermott said.

“Why is the Trump administration doing what it’s doing? The short answer is it’s in a free fall,” he said.

“It’s got to show that it’s doing something for these Midwestern manufacturing states, and that means getting tough with non-U.S. people. What better thing, then, to piss off the Canadians?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.

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A massive repudiation of Trump’s racist politics is building – The Washington Post

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Those words seem prescient today, after four years of President Trump’s racism, from the “very fine people” marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville to, in just the past week, a “white power” retweet and a threat to veto defense spending to protect the names of Confederate generals; after a pandemic disproportionately ravaged African American communities while an indifferent president tried to move on; after Trump-allied demonstrators, some carrying firearms and Confederate flags, tried to “liberate” themselves from public health restrictions; after the video of George Floyd’s killing showed the world blatant police brutality; after Trump used federal firepower against peaceful civil rights demonstrators of all colors.

The reckoning Parker foresaw is now upon us. White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows.

Surprisingly high Democratic turnout in recent contests in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Colorado points to the possibility of a building wave. The various measures of Democratic enthusiasm suggest “turnout beyond anything we’ve seen since 1960,” University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington predicts. If so, that would mean a historic repudiation of Trump, who knows his hope of reelection depends on low turnout. He has warned that mail-in ballots and other attempts to encourage more voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

That may not be wrong. Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.

Consider just one yardstick, a standard question of racial attitudes in which people are asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”

In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).

The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.

To the extent Trump’s racist provocation is a strategy (rather than simply an instinct), it is a miscalculation. The electorate was more than 90 percent white when Richard Nixon deployed his Southern strategy; the proportion is now 70 percent white and shrinking. But more than that, Trump’s racism has alienated a large number of white people.

“For many white Americans, the things Trump is saying and getting away with, they just didn’t think they lived in a world where that could happen,” says Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist specializing in public opinion at the University of Michigan. Racist appeals in particular alienate white, college-educated women, and even some women without college degrees, he has found: “One of the best ways to exacerbate the gender gap isn’t to talk about gender but to talk about race.”

Trump’s racism has also emboldened white Democrats, who have often been on the losing end of racial politics since George H.W. Bush deployed Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988. “They’re embracing the racial issues they used to cower on in decades past,” Hetherington says.

This is what Parker had in mind when he wrote in 2016 that Trump could be “good for the United States.” The backlash Trump provoked among whites and nonwhites alike “could kick off a second Reconstruction,” Parker now thinks. “I know it sounds crazy, especially coming from a black man,” he says, but “I think Trump actually is one of the best things that’s happened in this country.”

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Politics, pandemics and Russian aluminum: why Canada faces fresh U.S. tariffs – Powell River Peak

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WASHINGTON — The United States is once again threatening to spark a fresh tariff war with Canada over aluminum exports, despite the debut of a North American trade agreement that was supposed to usher in stability in the midst of an international economic crisis.

Precisely why remains a mystery to trade and industry insiders, although it’s likely the result of a convergence of disparate factors: COVID-19, international metals arbitrage, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and $16.3-billion worth of Russian aluminum.

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“It doesn’t make sense,” said Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada, coming as it does with the coming into force of USMCA — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which formally replaced NAFTA this week.

“It’s like an oxymoron. It’s so contradictory to the spirit of USMCA.”

There’s little doubt the aluminum industry, and in particular Canadian suppliers, stand to benefit over the long term from the USMCA’s requirements for regionally sourced metals, said Doug Hilderhoff, a Pittsburgh-based principal analyst at commodities research firm CRU Group.

“Looking over the past decade, we’ve seen aluminum consumption by the auto sector grow pretty strongly due to all the lightweighting initiatives. And this should just keep things moving in the right direction.”

The U.S. doesn’t have anywhere near enough smelting capacity to meet that demand by itself, he added.

Understanding how aluminum production works around the world, and how traders and marketers make money from it, can shed some light on how the U.S. is threatening Canadian aluminum anyway.

Because they traffic in white-hot liquid metal, aluminum smelters can’t simply shut down when demand for the product dries up, which is what happened to Canadian producers — who provide the bulk of the metal to U.S. markets — when the pandemic forced auto manufacturers to idle their assembly lines.

Instead, they were forced to pivot away from the specialized premium products demanded by the auto sector and produce the more generic primary aluminum known as P1020, shipping it to the only storage warehouses that are cost-effective, Simard said: facilities in the U.S., which is where the lion’s share of the North American aluminum market is located.

The ensuing “surge” in Canadian imports caught the attention of the U.S. trade representative’s office — or more specifically, the two U.S. producers that raised a red flag: Century Aluminum and Magnitude 7 Metals, which together comprise a Trump-friendly lobbying effort known as the American Primary Aluminum Association.

“The surge of Canadian metal has a caused the price to collapse and is endangering the future viability of the U.S. primary industry,” the association wrote to U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer in May.

“Action — real action, not mere monitoring, and endless discussions in multinational fora — is needed now if the United States is to save what is left of its primary aluminum industry.”

A spokesman for the APAA did not immediately respond to media queries Friday.

A separate group known as the Aluminum Association, which counts dozens of U.S. and international producers among its members, has argued against tariffs, calling Canadian suppliers an integral element of the North American supply chain and a key component of the industry’s success.

Glencore Plc, a metals trader and producer based in Switzerland, holds a 47 per cent stake in Century. Magnitude 7, founded by a former Glencore aluminum trader, operates a single plant in Missouri that won a new lease on life after Trump’s first round of tariffs in 2018, but which warned in February it was on the verge of shutting down.

Glencore also holds the exclusive rights to sell Russian-made aluminum in the U.S., and agreed in April to spend $16.3 billion over the next five years on up to 6.9 million tonnes of the metal from Rusal, the second largest aluminum producer in the world.

Glencore is also a major player in the world of metals arbitrage — buying commodities at the lowest price possible, then shipping and storing them before selling on a futures contract in hopes of a higher price. The pandemic has fuelled a global collapse in the price of aluminum, Simard said, while the threat of tariffs has had the opposite effect.

“What do the traders do? They buy the metal at a very low price because the crisis is what brought you to pivot to this position, and they warehouse it when interest rates are very low because it’s a crisis,” Simard said.

“The key player over and above everybody else is Glencore.”

Rusal, once controlled by the Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was subject to U.S. sanctions since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 — sanctions that were lifted in January 2019 as part of an extensive restructuring that saw Deripaska relinquish control of the company. Glencore was involved, too, swapping shares in Rusal for a direct stake in its parent company, En+.

The USTR and the Trump administration “cannot be unaware of the corporate structure around Rusal and Glencore. I would doubt it very much,” said Simard, who suspects the White House is picking a fight it believes will be politically helpful as the president returns to the campaign trail later this year.

A spokesman for Glencore declined to comment Friday.

The Canadian aluminum industry, the bulk of which is located in Quebec, owes its origins to soaring American demand for the metal in the months prior to the U.S. entry into the Second World War — a partnership that cemented Canada’s role in the continental military industrial base.

Is the Trump administration trying to end that relationship?

“It’s worth raising the question,” Simard said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

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