Taliban, US Set to Hold Crucial Round of Afghan Peace Talks
The United States and the Taliban are scheduled to hold crucial negotiations in Qatar early next week amid high expectations of a breakthrough in a nearly yearlong effort to end the war in Afghanistan.
This would be the seventh round of talks in Doha, Qatar, where the insurgent group maintains an informal political office. The U.S. team is being led by Afghan-born American reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
The dialogue, which excludes the Afghan government, has focused on the withdrawal of American forces from the country in exchange for Taliban assurances that transnational terrorists would be not be allowed to use Afghan soil for attacks against other countries.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators were expected to conclude an agreement covering the two issues in their last meeting in May, but the discussions stalled over the Taliban’s refusal to cease hostilities and participate in an intra-Afghan peace dialogue until Washington announced a troop drawdown timetable.
Gradual progress seen
A Taliban spokesman has dismissed reported assertions of a stalemate in the dialogue in the wake of U.S. insistence that the final agreement must cover a cease-fire and the insurgent group’s engagement in intra-Afghan talks, involving the Kabul government.
“I don’t see the dialogue is deadlocked. It is progressing, but steadily or gradually,” Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the insurgent negotiating team, told VOA ahead of the upcoming talks.
“I hope with the announcement of a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the process may gain momentum, paving the way for the Afghans to sit together and chart a road map for a future Islamic system and government,” Shaheen said.
Khalilzad, in a statement ahead of the upcoming meeting with the Taliban, also vowed he would “try to bring the first two parts of our peace framework to closure,” but he emphasized success would require other parties to show flexibility.
“We hope Khalilzad will deliver what he has promised — that he would try to bring to closure the framework for peace on these two issues,” Shaheen said when asked to respond to comments by the chief American negotiator.
Official sources in Kabul, meanwhile, have told VOA a two-day peace dialogue among Afghans, including government and Taliban representatives, is being arranged in Doha early next month. The sources said the meeting was scheduled for July 7 and would be an outcome of the upcoming U.S.-Taliban negotiations.
The Taliban are opposed to any direct talks with Afghan government officials, dismissing them as American “puppets.” But the insurgent group, Taliban officials said, is not averse to a peace dialogue with a delegation representing all sections of the Afghan society, including government officials in their individual capacity.
While Washington has engaged in direct talks with the Taliban, a top American military commander noted this week that strongholds of the Islamic State group in eastern Afghan provinces “are very worrisome to us.”
Strong pressure seen
However, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said earlier this week that IS was under strong military pressure in Afghanistan.
American forces and their Afghan partners routinely attack IS bases in the country while Taliban insurgents also regularly clash with loyalists of the Middle Eastern-based terrorist group.
“ISIS in Afghanistan certainly has aspirations to attack the United States. … It is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them, it will be hard for them to do that,” McKenzie, using an acronym for Islamic State, told reporters in Germany.
But the Taliban swiftly rejected McKenzie’s assertions as baseless and alleged they were aimed at justifying the U.S. military presence in the country.
“Their occupation is practically providing Daesh a ground in Afghanistan, and they are using its name and existence as an instrument,” alleged Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, using the local name for IS.
Mujahid claimed the Taliban had cleared many Afghan areas of IS, and he accused American forces as well as their local partners of launching aerial strikes against Taliban positions in areas where the insurgents are battling IS militants.
“If American generals really fear from Daesh, then why are they avoiding its elimination and creating hurdles against mujahedeen operations? Statements of American generals are opposite of their actions,” Mujahid said.
American military officials, for their part, have reportedly insisted the Taliban have not done enough to fight IS, particularly in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar, where the terrorist group has set up bases.
“But not only are the Taliban mostly avoiding fighting the Islamic State, they are also feeding its ranks. Taliban insurgents serve as one of the Islamic State’s primary recruiting pools, and they often bring a wealth of combat experience with them, according to the officials,” the U.S. military officials told The New York Times.
U.S. interlocutors in continuing direct talks with Taliban envoys in Qatar have proposed to leave behind a counterterrorism force in Afghanistan after any peace agreement to fight IS.
Taliban negotiators, however, have rejected the proposal, insisting their fighters could handle and defeat the Islamic State loyalists, according the Times.
Census Says More Than 60% of US Men Are Fathers
Fathers in the U.S. tend to be better educated than men without children, and relatively few men have children over age 40.
These are some of the conclusions in a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, just in time for Father’s Day.
The data in the report came from 2014, when the bureau for the first time asked both men and women about their fertility histories. The goal of the report was to shed greater light on men’s fertility, a topic about which less is known than that of women’s fertility, according to the Census Bureau.
“In recent decades, there has been growing public and academic interest in fathers and fatherhood given the importance of fathers in children’s lives,” the report said.
It found more than 60% of the 121 million adult men in the U.S. were fathers.
About three-quarters of fathers were married. Almost 13% of dads were divorced and 8% had never been married.
Just under a quarter of U.S. men between ages 40 and 50 were childless, and about 17% had never been married by the time they reached their 40s. Both figures were noticeably higher than for women who had reached middle age. Just under 16% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 were childless, and 14% had never been married, according to the report.
There were also noticeable differences in workforce participation between fathers and mothers with young children. Nearly 90% of fathers whose youngest child was under age 6 were employed, while that figure was only around 60% for mothers, according to the report. There was no difference between the sexes for childless men and women.
Men with children tended to be more educated than those without kids, although the report noted that might be the result of age, since the chances of becoming fathers and reaching higher education levels increases with age.
Fatherhood also varied by race, ethnic background and age.
Almost 30% of Hispanics in their 20s were fathers. That was true for about a quarter of black men, more than a fifth of white men and an eighth of Asian men.
By the time men reached their 40s, those disparities had narrowed. More than 83% of Hispanics were fathers, around 80% of black and Asian men were dads and around three-quarters of white men were fathers.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Misfires on Iran, Trade and That Wall
In President Donald Trump’s reckoning, an Iran tamed by him no longer cries “death to America,” the border wall with Mexico is proceeding apace, the estate tax has been lifted off the backs of farmers, the remains of U.S. soldiers from North Korea are coming home and China is opening its wallet to the U.S. treasury for the first time in history.
These statements range from flatly false to mostly so.
Here’s a week of political rhetoric in review:
TRUMP, speaking about Iranians “screaming ‘death to America’” when Barack Obama was in the White House: “They haven’t screamed ‘death to America’ lately.” — Fox News interview Friday.
THE FACTS: Yes they have. The death-to-America chant is heard routinely.
The chant, “marg bar Amreeka” in Farsi, dates back even before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Once used by communists, it was popularized by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s figurehead and Iran’s first supreme leader after the U.S. Embassy takeover by militants.
It remains a staple of hard-line demonstrations, meetings with current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, official ceremonies, parliamentary sessions and main Friday prayer services in Tehran and across the country. Some masters of ceremonies ask audiences to tone it down. But it was heard, for example, from the crowd this month when Khamenei exhorted thousands to stand up against U.S. “bullying.”
In one variation, a demonstrator at Tehran’s Quds rally last month held a sign with three versions of the slogan: “Death to America” in Farsi, “Death to America” in Arabic,” ″Down with U.S.A.” in English.
WAGES and TAXES
TRUMP: “Wages are growing, and they are growing at the fastest rate for — this is something so wonderful — for blue-collar workers. The biggest percentage increase — blue-collar workers.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
THE FACTS: He’s claiming credit for a trend of rising wages for lower-income blue-collar workers that predates his presidency.
Some of the gains also reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level; the Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.
With the unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. Despite all the talk of robots and automation, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, and retail stores still need workers.
They are offering higher wages and have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In April, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3.1% for the richest one-quarter.
A fact-checking site has verified claims circulating on the Internet that the United States has fallen in a ranking of world’s strongest democracies.
Snopes.com issued the verification Friday, supporting an internet claim by a group called The Christian Left that “the USA has dropped off the list of the 20 most democratic countries in the world.” It cited an annual ranking by The Economist magazine, which has been evaluating the world’s governments on type and strength since 2006.
The Economist‘s most recent Democracy Index, its 2017 evaluation issued in January 2018, showed that the United
Those gains are not necessarily flowing to the “blue collar” workers Trump cited. Instead, when measured by industry, wages are rising more quickly for lower-paid service workers. Hourly pay for retail workers has risen 4.1% in the past year and 3.8% for hotel and restaurant employees. Manufacturing workers — the blue collars — have seen pay rise just 2.2% and construction workers, 3.2%.
TRUMP: “And to keep your family farms and ranches in the family, we eliminated the estate tax, also known as the ‘death tax,’ on the small farms and ranches and other businesses. That was a big one. … People were having a farm, they loved their children, and they want to leave it to their children. … And the estate tax was so much, the children would have to go out and borrow a lot of money from unfriendly bankers, in many cases. And they’d end up losing the farm, and it was a horrible situation.” — remarks in Council Bluffs.
THE FACTS: There still is an estate tax. More small farms may be off the hook for it as a result of changes by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 but very few farms or small businesses were subject to the tax even before that happened.
Congress increased the tax exemption — temporarily — so fewer people will be subject to those taxes.
Facebook is to send more potential hoax articles to third-party fact checkers and show their findings below the original post, the world’s largest online social network said on Thursday as it tries to fight so-called fake news.
The company said in a statement on its website it will start using updated machine learning to detect possible hoaxes and send them to fact checkers, potentially showing fact-checking results under the original article.
Facebook has been criticized as being one of the main distribution points for so-called fake news, which many think influenced the 2016 U.S
Previously, any assets from estates valued at more than $5.49 million, or nearly $11 million for couples, were subject to the estate tax in 2017. The new law doubled that minimum for 2018 to $11.2 million, or $22.4 million for couples. For 2019, the minimums rose to $11.4 million, or $22.8 million for couples. Those increased minimums will expire at the end of 2025.
According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses were subject to the estate tax in 2017. Those estates represent about 1 percent of all taxable estate tax returns.
TRUMP: “I think we’re going to do very well with North Korea over a period of time. I’m in no rush. … Our remains are coming back; you saw the beautiful ceremony in Hawaii with Mike Pence. We’re getting the remains back.” — joint news conference Wednesday with Poland’s president.
THE FACTS: The U.S. is not currently getting additional remains of American service members killed during the Korean War.
With U.S.-North Korea relations souring, the Pentagon said last month it had suspended its efforts to arrange negotiations this year on recovering additional remains of American service members. The Pentagon said it hoped to reach agreement for recovery operations in 2020.
The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency said it has had no communication with North Korean authorities since the Vietnam summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February. That meeting focused on the North’s nuclear weapons and followed a June 2018 summit where Kim committed to permitting a resumption of U.S. remains recovery; that effort had been suspended by the U.S. in 2005.
The agency said it had “reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations” with the North during this budget year, which ends Sept. 30.
President Donald Trump boasted Tuesday night about corporate job expansion and military cost-savings that actually took root under his predecessor and gave a one-sided account of the costs and benefits to the economy from immigration – ignoring the upside.
A look at some of his claims in his prime-time speech to Congress:
Protesters display placards during a rally called “We Will Persist” in Boston, Feb.
Last summer, in line with the first Trump-Kim summit in June, the North turned over 55 boxes of what it said were the remains of an undetermined number of U.S service members killed in the North during the 1950-53 war. So far, six Americans have been identified from the 55 boxes.
U.S. officials have said the North has suggested in recent years that it holds perhaps 200 sets of American war remains. Thousands more are unrecovered from battlefields and former POW camps.
The Pentagon estimates that about 5,300 Americans were lost in North Korea.
TRUMP: “We’re building a wall … And by next year, at the end of the year, we’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall.” — remarks Tuesday at the Republican Party of Iowa annual dinner.
TRUMP: “We’re going to have close to 500 miles of wall built by the end of next year. That’s a lot. And we’re moving along very rapidly. We won the big court case, as you know, the other day. And that was a big victory for us.” — remarks Monday with Indianapolis 500 champions.
THE FACTS: He’s being overly optimistic. It’s unclear how Trump arrives at 500 miles (800 km), but he would have to prevail in legal challenges to his declaration of a national emergency or get Congress to cough up more money to get anywhere close. Those are big assumptions. And by far the majority of the wall he’s talking about is replacement barrier, not new miles of construction.
So far, the administration has awarded contracts for 247 miles (395 km) of wall construction, but more than half comes from Defense Department money available under Trump’s Feb. 15 emergency declaration. On May 24, a federal judge in California who was appointed by Obama blocked Trump from building key sections of the wall with that money. In a separate case, a federal judge in the nation’s capital who was appointed by Trump sided with the administration, but that ruling has no effect while the California injunction is in place.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Nevada for their third and final debate before the November 8 presidential election.
The two began the night debating their very different approaches to some of the country’s stickiest issues: gun rights, abortion and immigration.
It was a striking turnabout from how the previous two debates unfolded. The last time the two met, in St.
Even if Trump prevails in court, all but 17 miles (27 km) of his awarded contracts replace existing barriers.
The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion in potential money under the national emergency, mostly from the Defense Department.
Customs and Border Protection officials say the administration wants Congress to finance 206 miles (330 km) next year. The chances of the Democratic-controlled House backing that are between slim and none.
TRUMP: “Right now, we’re getting 25% on $250 billion worth of goods. That’s a lot of money that’s pouring into our treasury. We’ve never gotten 10 cents from China. Now we’re getting a lot of money from China.” — remarks Monday.
TRUMP: “We’re taking in, right now, billions and billions of dollars in tariffs, and they’re subsidizing product.” — remarks Tuesday in Council Bluffs.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. The tariffs he’s raised on imports from China are primarily if not entirely a tax on U.S. consumers and businesses, not a source of significant revenue coming into the country.
A study in March by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University and Princeton University, before the latest escalation, found that the public and U.S. companies were paying $3 billion a month in higher taxes from the trade dispute with China, suffering $1.4 billion a month in lost efficiency and absorbing the entire impact.
It’s also false that the U.S. never collected a dime in tariffs before he took action. Tariffs on goods from China are not remotely new. They are simply higher in some cases than they were before. Tariffs go back to the beginning of the U.S. and were once a leading source of revenue for the government. Not in modern times. They equate to less than 1% of federal spending.
TRUMP: “Look, without tariffs, we would be captive to every country, and we have been for many years. That’s why we have an $800 billion trading deficit for years. We lose a fortune with virtually every country. They take advantage of us in every way possible.” — CNBC interview Monday.
THE FACTS: Trump isn’t telling the whole story about trade deficits.
When he refers to $800 billion trade gaps, he’s only talking about the deficit in goods such as cars and aircraft. He leaves out services — such as banking, tourism and education — in which the U.S. runs substantial trade surpluses that partially offset persistent deficits in goods. The goods and services deficit peaked at $762 billion in 2006. Last year, the United States ran a record $887 billion deficit in goods and a $260 billion surplus in services, which added up to an overall deficit of more than $627 billion.
The U.S. does tend to run trade deficits with most other major economies. But there are exceptions, such as Canada (a nearly $4 billion surplus last year), Singapore ($18 billion) and Britain ($19 billion).
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Nevada for their third and final debate before the November 8 presidential election.
The two began the night debating their very different approaches to some of the country’s stickiest issues: gun rights, abortion and immigration.
It was a striking turnabout from how the previous two debates unfolded. The last time the two met, in St.
Mainstream economists reject Trump’s argument that the deficits arise from other countries taking advantage of the United States. They see the trade gaps as the result of an economic reality that probably won’t bend to tariffs and other changes in trade policy: Americans buy more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.
U.S. exports are also hurt by the American dollar’s status as the world’s currency. The dollar is usually in high demand because it is used in so many global transactions. That means the dollar is persistently strong, raising prices of U.S. products and putting American companies at a disadvantage in foreign markets.
TRUMP: “You know, France charges us a lot for the wine and yet we charge them little for French wine. So the wineries come to me and they say — the California guys, they come to me: ‘Sir, we are paying a lot of money to put our products into France and you’re letting – meaning, this country is allowing this French wine which is great, we have great wine, too, allowing it to come in for nothing. It is not fair.’” — interview Monday with CNBC.
THE FACTS: Trump, who’s been in the wine business, is technically wrong about France applying tariffs. The European Union does.
He’s right about a disparity in wine duties.
Tariffs vary by alcohol content and other factors. A bottle of white American wine with 13 percent alcohol content imported into the EU carries a customs duty of 10 euro cents (just over 11 U.S. cents). A bottle of white wine from the EU exported to the United States has a customs duty of 5 U.S. cents.
The gap in duties is narrower for red wine with an alcohol content of 14.5 percent.
Bulk wines are another story. The U.S. tariff is double the EU one, a break for American producers because bulk wine represents 25% of the volume of U.S. wine coming into the EU, according to the French wine exporter federation.
The value of wine imported by France has jumped 200% over a decade. Americans are the top consumers of French wine exports.
TRUMP, on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report: “The Mueller report spoke. … It said, ‘No collusion and no obstruction and no nothing.’ And, in fact, it said we actually rebuffed your friends from Russia; that we actually pushed them back — we rebuffed them.” — remarks Wednesday in Oval Office.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong to repeat the claim that the Mueller report found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign; it’s also false that his campaign in 2016 denied all access to Russians. Nor did the special counsel’s report exonerate Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice.
Mueller’s two-year investigation and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.
On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.
He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.
Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the Fifth Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings.
In an interview broadcast Wednesday with ABC News, Trump said if a foreign power offered dirt on his 2020 opponent, he’d be open to accepting it and that he’d have no obligation to call in the FBI. “I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump said. “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”
REPUBLICAN SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Judiciary Committee chairman, in response to Trump’s comments that he’d be open to accepting political dirt from foreign adversaries like Russia: “The outrage some of my Democratic colleagues are raising about President Trump’s comments will hopefully be met with equal outrage that their own party hired a foreign national to do opposition research on President Trump’s campaign.” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Graham is making an unequal comparison.
He seeks to turn the tables on Democrats by pointing to their use of a dossier of anti-Trump research produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, that was financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Graham also insists on “equal outrage” over Democrats using that information from a former intelligence officer of Britain, an ally with a history of shared intelligence with the U.S. That’s a different story from a foreign adversary such as Russia, which the Mueller report concluded had engaged in “sweeping and systematic” interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Moreover, Steele was hired as a private citizen, though one with intelligence contacts.
The Mueller report found multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the report said it established that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Trump and his GOP allies typically point to the Steele dossier as the basis for the Russia probe. But the FBI’s investigation began months before it received the dossier.
TRUMP: “The Democrats were very unhappy with the Mueller report. So now they’re trying to do a do-over or a redo. And we’re not doing that. We gave them everything. We were the most transparent presidency in history.” — Oval Office remarks Wednesday.
THE FACTS: It’s highly dubious to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.
Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.
In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.
According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted. The report instead factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter.
TRUMP: “We have people on the Fed that really weren’t, you know, they’re not my people, but they certainly didn’t listen to me because they made a big mistake.” — CNBC interview.
THE FACTS: Actually, most of the members on the Fed’s Board of Governors owe their jobs to Trump.
In addition to choosing Jerome Powell, a Republican whom Obama had named to the Fed board, to be chairman, Trump has filled three other vacancies on the board in his first two years in office. Lael Brainard is the only Democrat on the board.
There are still two vacancies on the seven-member board. Trump had earlier intended to nominate two political allies — Herman Cain and Stephen Moore — but both later withdrew in the face of sharp opposition from critics.
TRUMP: “Tariffs are a great negotiating tool, a great revenue producer and, most importantly, a powerful way to get … companies to come to the U.S.A., and to get companies that have left us for other lands to come back home. We stupidly lost 30% of our auto business to Mexico.” — tweets Tuesday.
TRUMP: “They took 30% of our automobile companies. They moved into Mexico. All of the people got fired.” — interview Monday with CNBC.
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect that Mexico took 30% of the U.S. automobile business in the years since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
In 2017, 14% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. were imported from Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Parts imported from Mexico exceed 30%.
TRUMP: “If the Tariffs went on at the higher level, they would all come back.” — tweet Tuesday.
TRUMP: “What will happen is the companies will move into the United States, back where they came from. … They would all move back if they had to pay a 25% tax or tariff.” — interview Monday with CNBC.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong to assume that auto companies in Mexico would immediately move back to the U.S. if there were a 25% tariff on Mexican-made vehicles and parts.
It takes three years or four years minimum to plan, equip and build an auto assembly plant, so there would be little immediate impact on production or jobs. Auto and parts makers are global companies, and they would also look to countries without tariffs as a place to move their factories. The companies could also just wait until after the 2020 election, hoping that if Trump is defeated, the next president would get rid of the tariffs.
“They’re not going to invest in duplicative capacity in response to short-term policy incentives,” said Kristen Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research.
It is possible that some production could be shifted back to the United States. General Motors, for instance, makes about 39% of its full-size pickup trucks at a factory in Silao, Mexico, mainly light-duty versions, according to analysts at Morningstar. If the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on assembled automobiles, GM could shift some production to a factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that also makes light-duty pickups. But there are limits. That plant already is running on three shifts and is almost near its maximum capacity.
Tariffs on Mexico probably would cost auto jobs in the U.S., too, because Mexico would almost certainly retaliate with tariffs of its own. Tariffs on both sides would raise prices of vehicles, because automakers probably would pass the charges onto their customers.
Industry experts say higher prices would cause more buyers to shift into the used-vehicle market, cutting into new-vehicle sales. Tariffs could be higher than 25% because parts go back and forth across the border multiple times in a highly integrated supply chain.
Vehicles built in Mexico get 20% to 30% of their parts from the U.S., so the tariffs would drive up prices there. That would hit lower-income people hard because automakers produce many lower-priced new vehicles in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor. About 62% of U.S. vehicle and parts exports go to Canada and Mexico, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
Tariffs would add $1,300 to $4,500 to the price of vehicles based just on the cost of parts, the center estimated.
US Scientists Try to Figure Out Why Some Don’t Flee Tornadoes
Following a severe tornado earlier this year in Alabama that killed 23 people, scientists interviewed residents in the area to find out why the storm was so deadly and made an important finding: almost everyone had heard the warnings about the impending storm and had enough time to seek shelter, but some chose not to.
“From a national standpoint, a media standpoint, forecasters did a great job” predicting the March storm in eastern Alabama, Stephen Strader, an atmospheric scientist at Villanova University, said. “But why did we see 23 fatalities? Why didn’t they take shelter?”
These questions are a central part of new research that is being conducted in collaboration between physical scientists, like Strader, and social scientists to try to determine why people behave the way they do during a storm, including whether they choose to seek shelter or not.
The goal of the research is to provide more information to forecasters and policymakers to create better tornado warning systems.
Strader said that as a physical scientist, his job is to look at all the physical factors of a storm, including “how wide was it, where did the tornado track, how many homes were damaged.”
He said social scientists, on the other hand, try to find out more information about people’s choices. “We want to understand the decision-making about tornado warnings. If a warning comes, what do you do?” he asked.
Kim Klockow, a scientist at the University of Oklahoma, is involved in the research as a social scientist and compares her field to medicine.
“Everyone wants to know what treatment to pursue, but there needs to be a diagnosis first,” she said, adding that social science is like the diagnosing phase.
In the aftermath of a storm, she said, “all we have is the death total, which doesn’t tell us much.”
When a death toll is low, like after a powerful tornado hit Kansas in May but left no fatalities, Klockow said people call it “a miracle.” However, she said even these situations are “frustrating, because we don’t know why” there were no fatalities.
The death rate from tornadoes in the United States had steadily decreased from 1920 to 1990, but since then has stalled, according to research Strader has done.
The reasons for this are not well understood, Klockow said. Without more information, “it is hard to say why things are happening the way they are.”
“What I’m advocating for is observation,” she said.
The new research focuses primarily on people who live in mobile homes, as those structures are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes. Roughly half of the fatalities from the March tornado in Alabama were residents of mobile homes.
Strader said it is not just that a mobile home is more vulnerable to storms, but that the people living in them are often more disadvantaged and have more complexities in terms of their decision-making. He said they might not have a vehicle or might not know where to go.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends people who live in mobile homes flee to a safer structure during a tornado, even if their mobile home is tied down, while those who live in traditional houses are advised to go to their basement, or if they do not have one, to an interior room.
A tornado ripped through the U.S. city of Atlanta, in the southeastern state of Georgia late Friday, injuring at least 30 people and causing extensive damage.
Officials told reporters Saturday the twister was 200 yards wide and traveled for six miles, cutting into the city’s core.
The storm struck a major hotel, the headquarters of the Cable News Network and the Georgia Dome sports arena as thousands inside watched a college basketball game.
High wind tore holes in the dome’s cloth roof, loosened bolts from the rafters and caused catwalks to sway.
Strader said there used to be a belief that people who lived in mobile homes were less educated about the weather. However, he said current research shows they know just as much about the weather as anyone else and are also aware that their mobile homes are not safe. However, sometimes they freeze or don’t know where to flee, he said.
“There are a lot of issues we have to start dissecting,” he said.
Getting to safety
Strader suggested that the safest course of action would be for people in mobile homes to flee to safety at the first sign that a tornado could strike, when forecasters issue what is called a “tornado watch,” even before a tornado has formed and they announce a “tornado warning.”
He acknowledged, however, this could be a difficult choice for people to make.
Strader said people have all kinds of belief systems and biases that could prevent them from seeking shelter, including a fatalistic attitude, thinking, “If I am going to die today, it will be today.’”
According to Klockow, people need to be motived with a little fear, which can drive them to action, but warned that too much fear can make people freeze.
“We can find people kneeling on the floor praying instead of trying to get to a shelter,” she said.
Klockow said people tend not to blatantly disregard information about an incoming tornado, but said, “very often, people don’t feel that they need to do something about it.”
American Airlines Wins Restraining Order Against 2 Unions
A federal judge Friday ordered unions that represent American Airlines mechanics not to interfere in the airline’s operations.
The judge’s order came after American asked for a temporary restraining order to end what it considers an illegal work slowdown by mechanics that is causing delayed and canceled flights.
Judge John McBryde in Fort Worth, Texas, said a temporary restraining order is warranted because American is likely to win on its claim that the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are violating federal labor law.
Lawyers for the unions did not immediately respond to an email seeking their comment.
The dispute at American is similar to a recent fight at Southwest Airlines, which also went to court against its own workers before both sides agreed on a new contract earlier this year.
Tension between the unions and American has grown since contract talks broke off in April. Despite help from a federal mediator, the two sides have failed to reach agreement on pay, health benefits, limits on American’s ability to outsource maintenance work, and other issues.
American sued the unions May 20 and sought a less urgent injunction against the unions. In a court filing, American said that in the 23 days after it filed the lawsuit, the slowdown worsened, causing it to cancel 722 flights because of maintenance delays, or nearly 70% of the maintenance-related cancellations during the previous 14 weeks.
The airline said the travel plans of more than 175,000 passengers have been disrupted by the slowdown.
Union officials have denied that they are encouraging a slowdown.
The unions represent about 31,500 employees at Fort Worth-based American, including about 12,450 mechanics. Some had worked at US Airways before the two carriers merged in 2013 to create the world’s biggest airline.
The judge’s order bars the unions and their members from participating in or encouraging interference with American’s operations, including any slowdown such as refusing to work overtime if it is designed to keep planes out of service.
A trial in the case is scheduled for July 1.
Beijing Sternly Criticizes US Legislation Over Hong Kong Crisis
This story originated in VOA’s Mandarin Service.
BEIJING – China summoned a U.S. envoy in Beijing on Friday to protest against remarks by Washington about Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill.
Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Robert Forden, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, to lodge the protest, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Le said China did not accept foreign forces meddling in Hong Kong affairs. “China called on the United States … to immediately stop all interference in Hong Kong’s affairs and stop taking action that would affect the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” the statement said. “China will proceed with its next step based on the action taken by the U.S.”
At the same time, China called on the United States not to pass legislation in response to a crisis in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition law.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing that any plots to bring chaos to Hong Kong would not succeed, after U.S. lawmakers on Thursday proposed legislation that would require the U.S. secretary of state to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment under the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
Beijing warned the U.S. not to interfere with current situation in Hong Kong, which it considers an internal affair.
About 1 million people took to the streets of Hong Kong in protest of Beijing’s increasing interference with the territory’s rule of law and autonomy. They have been expressing deep distrust and worries the former British colony’s residents have about the communist party’s breach of its promise about Hong Kong’s high-level autonomy — especially after a series of kidnapping cases believed to have been conducted in Hong Kong and Thailand by mainland police in the past couple of years.
Obsession With 1999 Attack Could Shape Columbine’s Future
Two decades after the name “Columbine” became synonymous with a school shooting, the suburban Denver community surrounding the school is debating whether it’s time to tear down a building that also became a beacon for people obsessed with the killings.
School officials said the number of people trying to get close to or even inside the school reached record levels this year, the 20th anniversary of the 1999 attack that killed 13 people. People try to peek into the windows of the school library, mistaking it for the long-demolished room where most of the victims died, or ask people on campus how to take a tour.
The buses full of tourists have mostly stopped over the years, but not the visitors. This year alone, security staff contacted more than 2,400 “unauthorized” people on Columbine’s campus.
Then, a few days before the anniversary, a young woman described as obsessed with the attack flew to Colorado and bought a shotgun, killing only herself yet sparking lockdowns and new fears. School security has intercepted others with a similar infatuation with the crime and its teen perpetrators — so-called Columbiners.
District security chief John McDonald can rattle off some of the most frightening instances of people who came to the campus: An Ohio couple who was later charged with planning a domestic terror attack; a Utah teen later arrested for a bombing plot against his school; and a Texas man apprehended at the school after he said he was filled by one of shooter’s spirits and intended to “complete his mission.”
“These people, they want the building,” McDonald said. “They want to experience it, to walk the halls … The only way we can stop that interest in the building is to move it. Otherwise they’re not going to stop coming.”
But Columbine, named after the official state flower, represents more than one day to this suburban area southeast of Denver. Boisterous call-and-response chants of “We are Columbine” dominate school pep rallies and more solemn occasions including an April ceremony marking the anniversary. At the nearby memorial just over a crest named “Rebel Hill” for the school’s mascot, a plaque quotes an unnamed student: “You’re a Columbine Rebel for life and no one can ever take that away from you.”
“It’s not just a building, it’s like a second home to us,” said Jenn Thompson, who as a 15-year-old huddled inside a science classroom during the attack. “It’s still standing 20 years later. It represents us, still standing 20 years later.” She hopes her own daughter, now 8 years old, can attend the school, home to about 1,700 students.
The fates of mass shooting sites around the United States are varied.
In Newtown, Connecticut, voters authorized the demolition of the Sandy Hook Elementary School building where 26 students and teachers were killed in 2012 and construction of a new school with the same name near the original site. The building where 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018 is also expected to be razed; there has been no public discussion about the school’s name.
After a shooter killed 12 people inside an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012, the building reopened with a new name and auditoriums identified with letters rather than numbers. In Orlando, the owner of the Pulse nightclub plans to make the site into a museum and a memorial to the 49 people gunned down there in 2016.
The discussion of Columbine’s future is likely to take months. An initial proposal would keep the school’s new library, which was built after the attack, and construct a new school on the existing campus but further from nearby streets to give security more room to intercept intruders.
An online survey gauging community support will close this week. District officials will spend the summer reviewing and summarizing responses. If they decide to present a plan to the school board in August, its members will determine whether to put the estimated $60 or $70 million expense on November ballots.
Conversations with victims’ families, survivors and current staff convinced district officials that changing the school’s name was a non-starter, said Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Jason Glass.
“Until you’ve heard those thousands of people yelling `We are Columbine’ together, you don’t really get it,” he said. “The sense of pride is real.”
Some of those closest to the shooting have changed their minds over the years on the best course of action.
After the attack, Frank DeAngelis, then the school’s principal, met with the families of those killed, students and staff about their scarred building’s future. He said the majority felt demolishing it meant “the two killers had won.”
So construction crews repaired the bullet holes, replaced broken glass and covered bloodstains and burns with fresh paint and flooring before classes resumed in the fall. The library was closed off and later torn down. Its former location became an airy atrium in the school’s cafeteria with a ceiling mural of an aspen tree canopy and 13 clouds — representing the dead.
But after years of coping with unwanted visitors, DeAngelis, who retired in 2014, said he now supports the proposal to demolish and rebuild the school.
“I think if we would have known or projected what was going to happen, we may have had a different discussion about going back into the building,” DeAngelis said.
Retired English teacher Paula Reed said she initially balked at the idea of demolishing the building she worked in for 32 years. After a few days, though, her opinion shifted.
“I never loved that building,” Reed said. “I loved the community, my kids, my colleagues. And their needs simply matter more than my sentimentality.”
Trump Says he’d ‘of Course’ Tell FBI if he Gets Foreign Dirt
President Donald Trump said Friday that “of course” he would go to the FBI or the attorney general if a foreign power offered him dirt about an opponent. It was an apparent walkback from his earlier comments that he might not contact law enforcement in such a situation.
Trump, in an interview Friday with “Fox & Friends,” said he would look at the information in order to determine whether or not it was “incorrect.” But he added that, “of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”
Earlier in the week, Trump had told ABC that he would consider accepting information from an outside nation and might not contact law enforcement.
His assertion that he would be open to accepting a foreign power’s help in his 2020 campaign had ricocheted through Washington, with Democrats condemning it as a call for further election interference and Republicans struggling to defend his comments.
Asked by ABC News what he would do if Russia or another country offered him dirt on his election opponent, Trump said: “I think I’d want to hear it.” He added that he’d have no obligation to call the FBI. “There’s nothing wrong with listening.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller painstakingly documented Russian efforts to boost Trump’s campaign and undermine that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
In segment released Friday from the president’s interview earlier this week, Trump told ABC that “it doesn’t matter” what former White House counsel Don McGahn told investigators and that McGahn may have been confused when he told prosecutors he had been instructed to seek Mueller’s removal.
McGahn was a crucial witness for Mueller, spending hours with investigators and offering detailed statements about episodes central to the special counsel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice . McGahn described how Trump directed him to press the Justice Department for Mueller’s firing by insisting that he raise what the president perceived as the special counsel’s conflicts of interest.
Trump denied that account, saying, “The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.”
Asked why McGahn would have lied, Trump said, “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen — including you, including the media — that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”
Though Trump tried to cast doubt on McGahn’s credibility, it is clear from the Mueller report that investigators took seriously his statements, which in many instances were accompanied by contemporaneous notes, and relied on his account to paint a portrait of the president’s conduct. It is also doubtful that McGahn, a lawyer, would have had any incentive to make a misstatement given that lying to law enforcement is a crime and Mueller’s team charged multiple Trump aides with false statements.