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    Democrats agree Biden had to act on immigration – but they’re split over his asylum order

    Democratic mayors, governors and members of Congress from the south-west to the north-east stood beside Joe Biden at the White House, when he unveiled an executive order temporarily sealing the US-Mexico border to most asylum seekers – the most restrictive immigration policy of his presidency.“We must face a simple truth,” the US president said. “To protect America as a land that welcomes immigrants, we must first secure the border and secure it now.”Those around him agreed, applauding the directive as a welcome, if belated, step. Yet for many Democrats not in attendance, the moment marked an astonishing retreat from just four years ago, when the president campaigned on dismantling the incendiary immigration policies of Donald Trump.Most Democrats accept that Biden had to do something to address an issue that has become one of his biggest political vulnerabilities. But the party, once united in furious opposition to Trump’s asylum clampdown, now finds itself divided over his course of action, split on both the substance of the policy and the wisdom politics.Biden is once again campaigning for the presidency against Trump, but the political climate has changed demonstrably.Unprecedented levels of migration at the south-west border, fueled by poverty, political upheaval, climate change and violence and amplified by incendiary Republican rhetoric, have rattled Americans. Polls show border security is a top – sometimes the top – concern among US voters this election season.The action, designed to deter illegal border crossings, was an attempt by the Biden administration to confront those concerns. But it also invited unwelcome comparisons to his predecessor, whose policies he was accused of “reviving” in a legal challenge brought last week by the American Civil Liberties Union.“It violates fundamental American values of who we say we are – and puts people in danger,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, the executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy organization. “It’s part of a trap that the Democrats are falling into – they’re buying the narrative the right is pushing on immigration.”For three years, Republicans have accused Biden of ignoring mounting concern over the south-west border, which they falsely claim is under “invasion”. But as the humanitarian situation has worsened, he has also been confronted by criticism from Democratic mayors and governors pleading for more federal help managing the record number of people arriving in their cities and states, especially during peaks in 2022 and 2023.Biden moved to act unilaterally after Republicans blocked – at Trump’s behest – an attempt to pass a bipartisan bill to restrict asylum. Congress also rejected a multibillion-dollar budget request from the White House for additional resources to manage the situation, raising questions about how authorities will enforce the new rule.Supporters of Biden’s latest policy, including border-state and swing-state Democrats, say the action will deter illegal immigration by encouraging people to seek asylum in an “orderly” manner at legal ports of entry. Even if the rule is blocked by the courts, they are ready to make the case to voters that Biden took decisive action when Republicans would not.“We all want order at the border,” said New York representative Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who flipped a House seat in a special election earlier this year after campaigning on more border security. “The American people want us to deal with immigration.”But progressives, immigration-rights advocates and some Hispanic leaders say that the new order not only suspends long-standing guarantees that anyone who reaches US soil has the right to seek asylum, it undermines American values. The president’s embrace of punitive policies, they argue, risks losing the support of key parts of his coalition.Biden knew the order would infuriate corners of his party – he addressed them directly in his White House remarks earlier this month, saying the goodwill of the American people was “wearing thin”.“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said. “We have to act.”But advocates and progressives say he can do more to protect undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for decades, some for nearly their entire lives.They are urging Biden to use his bully pulpit to move the immigration fight beyond the border by using his presidential authority to shield more immigrants from deportation and create avenues for them to work legally. The White House is reportedly considering a future action that would protect undocumented spouses of American citizens from deportation.Last week the Biden campaign released a new ad marking the 12th anniversary of Daca – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by the Obama White House in 2012 – as the Democrat runs for re-election and looks for ways to shore up support from Latino voters.The program provides temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, people brought without permission to the US as children.In the “Spanglish” ad, Dreamers tout a recent move by the Biden administration to extend health care coverage to Daca recipients while warning that Trump has threatened to end the program.“Ultimately, Congress needs to act to reform our immigration system,” Cárdenas said. “But until then, we need Biden doing everything he can to show that he still believes what he promised he would do when he came into office.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionBiden’s policy, which took effect immediately, seeks to deter illegal immigration by temporarily blocking people who cross the US border outside lawful ports of entry from claiming asylum, with some exceptions. The order lifts when daily arrests for illegal crossing from Mexico fall to 1,500 per day across a seven-day average. The last time crossings fell below that threshold was in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic halted migration.The number of illegal border crossings has fallen in recent months, due in part to stepped-up Mexican enforcement and seasonal trends. But officials say the level is still elevated, and worry the trend could reverse as the weather cools and a new Mexican president takes power weeks before the November election.Despite its failure, the bipartisan border security deal, negotiated with the blessing of the White House, underscored just how far to the right the immigration debate in Washington has shifted.The legislation included a wishlist of Republican border security demands aimed at keeping people out. Absent were any long-sought Democratic aspirations of expanding pathways to citizenship and work visas for the millions of undocumented people living in the US. Instead, Democrats tied the border deal to a foreign aid package opposed by conservatives.“That changed the contours of what had been a widely understood immigration framework,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, immigration policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, adding: “I’m not sure what the consensus or compromise border solution is anymore.”On the campaign trail, Democrats hope to capitalize on Republican resistance to the border deal by casting Trump as unserious about addressing illegal immigration at the border, his signature issue. But it may prove difficult for Biden to make inroads on what has long been one of the country’s most polarizing political issues.Polls consistently show deep public disapproval of how Biden has handled the border, with voters giving Trump, who has also faced sharp criticism for his immigration plans, a wide advantage.A CBS News poll found broad public support for the president’s executive order, including among Republicans, but they also believed illegal border crossings were more likely to fall under Trump than Biden.And a new Monmouth University poll last week found Biden’s standing practically unchanged by the action, with roughly half of Americans – 46% – saying it did not go far enough, compared with 31% who said it was about right. Just 17% said the order went too far.On Wednesday, a coalition of immigrant-advocacy groups led by the ACLU sued the Biden administration over the directive.“By enacting an asylum ban that is legally indistinguishable from the Trump ban we successfully blocked, we were left with no choice but to file this lawsuit,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the ACLU.The administration anticipated legal challenges. “We stand by the legality of what we have done,” the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said in a Sunday interview with ABC, adding that he would have preferred for Congress to act.Last week, a group of 18 progressive members of Congress sent a letter to Mayorkas asking the administration to reconsider the asylum rule on the grounds that it “puts asylum seekers at grave risk of unlawful removal and return to harm”.Despite their disappointment, Biden’s Democratic critics say Trump – who has said undocumented immigrants “poison the blood of our country” and is planning a sweeping mass-deportation campaign in a potential second term – would be far more dangerous.“The more American voters focus on the anti-immigrant, extremist policies that the right is pushing, the more they’re going to reject that vision,” Cárdenas said. But, she added: “Americans want to know, what’s the plan? What’s the strategy? What’s the vision? And I think it will serve Biden and Democrats better if they have an answer to the question of what it is they are for.” More

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    Trust in US institutions has ‘never been lower’ – here’s why that matters

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    American psyche: a new series exploring the angst at the heart of the US election

    She was sentenced to prison for voting. Her story is part of a Republican effort to intimidate others
    Americans don’t have much faith in America right now. Or at least not in its institutions.In 2022, a Gallup poll found that Americans had experienced “significant declines” in trust in 11 of 16 major US institutions. The supreme court and the presidency saw the largest drops in public confidence – by 11% and 15%, respectively. Trust also fell in the medical system, banks, police, public schools and newspapers.Things didn’t improve in 2023: a follow-up poll found that levels of trust remained low, with none of the scores “worsening or improving meaningfully”.Public confidence waxes and wanes, but these numbers are notably bleak. Trust in institutions has “never been lower”, confirms Jeffrey Jones, a senior editor of the Gallup poll and the author of the 2022 report.This mistrust is not a one-time blip, a rough patch in an otherwise happy relationship between a country and its people. According to polling experts, it is partly the result of a decades-long effort by political leaders to erode public confidence in institutions such as science, media and government. And the consequences are serious. Not trusting the forces that govern their lives is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and makes the country less prepared to face a major crisis.“Trust is the grease that oils the gears and makes things work,” says Dr Marc Hetherington, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Without it, everything is more difficult.”But how did we lose this trust in the first place? And is there a way to get it back?With the exception of a couple of surges, the US “has been in a really low-trust environment since the 1970s”, says Hetherington.At that point, public confidence in institutions started to fall. Part of this was a natural leveling out. After the second world war, trust levels had been “extraordinarily high”, Hetherington says. “Probably anomalously so.”And part of it was due to the simple fact that – after the civil unrest of the 1960s and the energy crisis followed by stagflation of the 1970s – many Americans felt the government just wasn’t performing very well.But there was another force at play. Around this time, the Republican party became “the anti-government party”, Hetherington says. “There was a lot of political hay to be made from actively saying negative things about institutions, and it helped win elections.”By 1984, the Republican party’s official platform condemned government overreach. “Not every problem cries out for a federal solution,” it read.Over the next few decades, there were spikes of trust – usually during sunny economic times, like in the middle of the Reagan administration or at the end of the Clinton presidency. There were also spikes that arose from crises, like the months following 9/11.View image in fullscreenBut overall, trust trended downwards. “For the last 20 years, confidence has been depressed,” Jones says. He notes two major drops. The first during the second term of the George W Bush administration, when average confidence dropped 10%, and the second from 2019 to now, when average confidence dropped another 10% (save a brief spike during the early days of Covid).Numbers can feel abstract. But the effects of low public confidence are very concrete for both individuals and communities.“As individuals, we rely on institutions to sustain various aspects of our lives, whether we realize it or not,” says Keanu Jackson, a licensed social worker and therapist in New York City. Trust gets undermined when people feel like the institutions they rely on are not concerned with their wellbeing, he says, adding that when it happens, it can lead to “feelings of disillusionment, increased anxiety and stress, identity confusion, and a decreased sense of stability”.Constantly questioning the organizations that govern our lives is exhausting. “Having institutions that we trust is an easier lift for us cognitively,” says Dr Lynn Bufka, deputy chief of professional practice at the American Psychological Association. If someone feels that they have to double-check government guidance, news reports and medical directives, it wears on them and leads to a greater sense of uncertainty and anxiety.Low public confidence can also suggest “a lower collective sense of who we are”, Bufka notes. If Americans don’t have a shared understanding of how institutions represent them and what they can depend on, that may lead to greater splintering between groups. “That can potentially lead to anticipation of more general conflict, which at minimum would put you on edge,” she says.On a larger scale, the effects can be even more devastating. And perhaps they already have been, Hetherington says.Consider the Covid crisis. “Government was responsible for carrying out whatever ideas scientists thought were best practices,” he says. But significant mistrust of both the government and the science made many Americans treat official health guidelines with suspicion, if not outright rejection. “The ramifications of that are pretty clear. Probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths happen in the US,” Hetherington says.Is there potential to turn it around? Experts are torn.Jones says he is not optimistic that there will be a reversal in the mistrust trend anytime soon. In the past, he says, moments of economic prosperity have buoyed public trust, but he’s not sure that can happen any more. “Even when the economy’s good, there’s still economic angst,” he says.Hetherington says that, given how unwilling both major political parties seem to give each other any credit, he doubts “whether it’s even possible” to have a meaningful surge in trust. “I’ve come up with lots of problems and too few solutions,” he admits.Bufka is more optimistic. Leaders can rebuild trust with their public, she says. In the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Stress in America report, 59% of Americans said it is stressful that “politicians aren’t talking about things that are most important to them”.So, Bufka says, leaders need to speak on issues that matter to people. “Are [officials] talking about the things that are important to the people they represent? Does the news focus on things that are important to the average person?” Doing this, and explaining how and why they are making decisions, makes a big difference, she says.“Institutions have some opportunity to make change here, and it’s important for those who have power to think about what it is they could do,” she says. “It often comes down to transparent and honest communication.” More

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    Democrats decry Biden executive order turning away some asylum seekers

    Progressive Democrats and immigration advocates have shared their outrage after Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday that would turn away some asylum seekers.Biden’s order will temporarily shut down the US-Mexico border to asylum seekers attempting to enter the country legally when authorities have determined that the border is “overwhelmed”.The president said the order comes after Republicans rejected a bipartisan immigration deal that would have changed several areas of US immigration policy.“Today, I’m moving past Republican obstruction and using the executive authorities available to me as president to do what I can on my own to address the border,” Biden said during remarks on the order on Tuesday.“Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation, because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now that’s broken fixed – to hire more border patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges.”US representative Nanette Barragán of California, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic caucus, said Tuesday morning that she was “disappointed” in Biden’s direction with immigration policy, the New Republic reported.View image in fullscreenCalifornia representative Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American caucus, said she was “disappointed at the enforcement-only strategies” announced by Biden.“Rather than address humanitarian issues at the border effectively and with the nuance they deserve, today’s actions will gut protections for countless migrants exercising their legal right to claim asylum,” she said.US representative Raúl Grijalva, whose Arizona district borders Mexico, said that the order is a “significant departure from President Biden’s promise of a more humane and just approach to immigration”.He added: “It tramples on the universal right to claim asylum and prevents migrants from attempting to legally access safety and security in the United States. It is ripe for legal challenges and antithetical to our values.”The American Civil Liberties Union denounced Biden’s executive order and said they will be challenging it in court.“The Biden administration just announced an executive order that will severely restrict people’s legal right to seek asylum, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk,” the organization said in a post on X.Meanwhile, other Democrats have welcomed Biden’s actions as a necessary step to address the humanitarian crisis at the border.Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio told the Washington Post that he believes it is the “right direction”, adding: “I want to see more.” More

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    Where is Joe Biden’s fury about decapitated Palestinian babies? | Arwa Mahdawi

    Earlier this week, I sat down to write a piece about a campus safety officer at a public college in New York who told pro-Palestinian protesters that he supported genocide. “Yes I do, I support genocide,” the officer said, after a protester accused him of this at a graduation event at the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York (Cuny) system, last Thursday. “I support killing all you guys, how about that?”It’s possible that you didn’t hear about this incident: while it was covered by a few outlets, including the Associated Press, it didn’t get a huge amount of press. It certainly wasn’t splashed all over the front page of the New York Post the way it would have been if that guard had made the same comment about Israelis. The New York Times, which has written a lot about safety on college campuses – and published a piece on anti-Israel speeches at Cuny just a couple of days before this incident – didn’t seem to deem it newsworthy. And the White House didn’t chime in with a horrified statement about anti-Palestinian bias on campuses. After all, this wasn’t a big deal, right? It was just a security guard saying he supports genocide. Which, it should be clear now, is essentially the same position as the US government.So, yes, that was what I was going to write about. But a couple of paragraphs in, I stopped writing. I’d had a quick look at Twitter/X, you see, and it was full of the horrors of the tent massacre in Rafah, where an Israeli airstrike killed at least 45 people in an area where displaced Palestinians were sheltering. That, of course, is already old news: more killing has followed the slaughter on Sunday night – and Israel has said it plans many more months of this.The images out of Gaza have been unrelentingly traumatic, but the slaughter in Rafah was just unbearably upsetting. Reports of decapitated babies. Charred children. People burned alive. All just days after the International court of justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah. All while the US government makes excuse after excuse for Israel’s flagrant breaches of international law, which Israel said was just a “tragic mistake”.After those images, I couldn’t function anymore. I certainly couldn’t sit down and try and write. The hopelessness and the horror and my rage felt too overwhelming. My complicity felt too overwhelming – the knowledge that this mass slaughter is being facilitated and funded by the US taxpayer, the knowledge that a little portion of my writing income goes towards this suffering. All while the public school around the corner from me in Philadelphia is failing because there’s never enough money for education and the library near me shuts on Sundays because there’s never enough money for public services and there are people going bankrupt in the US from medical bills because there’s never enough money to invest in public health. But there’s always money for bombs.What’s the point? I keep asking myself. What’s the point in writing when it’s now very clear that there are no red lines, that absolutely nothing is going to stop the carnage? Not the United Nations human rights council terming this a genocide, not international courts telling Israel to stop, and certainly not my little opinion pieces.The point, I have to keep reminding myself, is that all genocides begin with dehumanization, and we all have to do what we can to push back on this. This genocide was built on decades of Palestinians being demonized and dehumanized – and public consent for this assault on Gaza was manufactured with the help of dehumanizing narratives designed to ensure nobody could think of a single Palestinian as an innocent civilian or even a human being.One of the most inflammatory examples was the false rumour that 40 decapitated babies were found in the Kfar Aza kibbutz after the Hamas attack. Hamas, of course, committed atrocities on 7 October, including murdering 38 Israeli children. But the fake news about 40 beheaded babies – which the Israeli government press office has confirmed to Le Monde was not true – was potent and emotive and spread absolutely everywhere, including to and from the White House.Joe Biden repeated these unverified reports, even when his staff urged him not to. He even lied about seeing pictures of these babies. It was Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction all over again. It was the Kuwait incubator hoax all over again. It laid the basis for genocide; for politicians to look at pictures of Palestinian children, decapitated by US-manufactured missiles, and just shrug.We see this same dehumanization come into play when it comes to US campus politics. Pro-Palestinian protesters are painted as hateful and dangerous, while violence by pro-Israel voices is minimized. When a pro-Israel mob attacked pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA, for example, the police (normally keen to crack down on protesters) allowed the attack to happen. The US press used the passive voice and characterized the violence – which was, by most accounts, extremely one-sided – as “clashes”.As for that Cuny officer who supports genocide? His words were also diminished by the mainstream media. The Hill, for example, which is centrist, chose the following headline: New York college suspends officer after perceived threats to campus protesters. Notice the use of perceived: the language minimizes the incident. There is also a clear choice not to put the words “kill you all” in the headline. And, while there is a video of the officer saying the remarks, the Hill made sure to say in the piece that it “appears” like he was making the remarks.Now compare this to a similar incident where a pro-Palestinian protester said something violent. In April the Hill published a piece with the headline: Columbia has banned student protest leader who said ‘Zionists don’t deserve to live,’ University says. In that instance, they put the inflammatory quote inside the headline. There also weren’t any qualifying words about the video; because it was a pro-Palestinian protester saying something violent, it was accepted at face value. All these little choices in reporting add up to a bigger narrative about who is violent and who isn’t. They help manufacture consent.So while it feels pointless writing this, the point is to make it clear that a lot of us don’t consent to what is being done with our taxpayer money and with the encouragement of our elected officials. The point is to make sure that this is all on record. Because decades into the future, when Israeli condos line the ethnically-cleansed beaches of Gaza and people look back on this genocide, there will be a lot of people who say they didn’t know. There will be people who will try and rewrite history to make it seem like the genocide unfolding right now was too complicated to parse. The point is to remind everyone too cowardly to speak up that your silence is complicity.
    Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist More

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    ‘A coward’s violence’: Robert De Niro trolls Trump outside hush-money trial

    It was a scenario that Donald Trump, in his pre-presidential celebrity days, might have relished; as he sat inside a Manhattan courtroom, Robert De Niro was waiting outside.But this was politics and De Niro, the pugnacious star of myriad Hollywood gangster films, was there not to pay homage to the former president as a fellow VIP, but to diss him in terms that might have been in place in Goodfellas or Mean Streets.The 80-year-old Oscar winner was present outside the New York courthouse where Trump’s hush-money trial was reaching its closing stages on Tuesday as an operative of Joe Biden’s re-election bid, deployed as a proxy while the president’s campaign made its first clear foray into his opponent’s complex legal woes.Introduced by the Biden campaign communications director, Michael Tyler, De Niro – a vitriolic critic of Trump, who has provided the voiceover for a new 30-second advertisement warning of the perils of his return – adapted to the role with professional aplomb.“This is my neighbourhood, downtown New York City. I grew up here and feel at home in these streets,” he said, before remarking on the strangeness of Trump being in a courtroom across the street, “because he doesn’t belong in my city”.The former president and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee had been tolerated in the Big Apple, said the actor, when he was “just another grubby real estate hustler masquerading as a big shot”.But now the stakes had been raised and Trump, De Niro explained, had a vision of dictatorial power that had prompted him to step into the political arena, citing the mob violence from Trump’s supporters that accompanied the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.“That’s why I needed to be involved … in the new Biden-Harris ad, because it shows the violence of Trump,” he said.De Niro invoked the lessons of Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, held to celebrate the US’s fallen military heroes, and quoted Abraham Lincoln in saying they had died so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth”.Stepping back into Hollywood gangland rhetoric, De Niro warned: “Under Trump, this kind of government will perish from the earth. I don’t mean to scare you. No, no, wait – maybe I do mean to scare you. If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted. And elections? Forget about it.”But arguably the most belittling reference concerned Trump’s taste for political violence, which De Niro dismissed as “a coward’s violence”.“You think Trump ever threw a punch himself or took one?” he asked. “No way. He doesn’t get blood on his hands. He directs the mob to do his dirty work for him by making a suggestion, an inference.”The punch reference recalled Raging Bull, the 1980 biopic in which De Niro played Jake LaMotta, the turbulent boxer who was once world middleweight champion.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionHis depiction of LaMotta’s sometimes menacing persona sprung to mind as the actor bristled at being heckled by a Trump supporter as he introduced two police officers, Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn, who had been present at the Capitol on 6 January 2021 as it was assailed by a mob trying to prevent Congress certifying Biden’s 2020 election victory.“They lied under oath,” said the out-of-camera-shot heckler, who was heard to add: “They’re traitors.”De Niro glared, then countered: “Excuse me, they lied under oath. What are you saying? They’re traitors. I don’t even know how to deal with you, my friend.“They stood there and fought for us, for you … they fought for you, buddy, you’re able to stand right here now. They are the true heroes.”Fanone, who served as a Washington DC police officer, recounted how he was violently attacked and beaten by members of the mob, one of whom tried to take his firearm. All had been “inspired by lies” told by Trump, he said.Coming to the microphone after De Niro had left the scene, Trump’s campaign adviser, Jason Miller, ridiculed both Biden and the Hollywood star.“The best that Biden can do is roll out a washed-up actor – and don’t worry, my remarks will be shorter than The Irishman,” he said, invoking one of De Niro’s later films, directed by Martin Scorsese. “I won’t make you suffer for three hours.” More

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    ICJ expected to make new ruling on Israel’s war in Gaza

    The international court of justice is expected to issue a new ruling on Israel’s conduct of its war in Gaza at 3pm (1400 BST) on Friday, as the US expressed concern over Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation among countries that have traditionally supported it.Amid speculation that the ICJ could order a halt to Israel’s offensive, a second top global court – the international criminal court – identified the three judges who will hear a request for arrest warrants against Hamas leaders, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its defence minister, Yoav Gallant.Last week South Africa asked the ICJ, which is located in The Hague and also known as the world court, to order a halt to Israel’s offensive in Gaza, and in Rafah in particular, saying this was necessary to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.ICJ decisions have in the past been ignored, as the top UN legal body has no way to enforce its decisions, but they carry international weight. A ruling against Israel could add to its political isolation after a series of setbacks this week.Israel suggested it would defy any order to stop fighting.“No power on Earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza,” a spokesperson, Avi Hyman, told reporters on Thursday.The latest legal moves come as Israeli media reported that Israel Defense Forces had concluded that troops had “breached regulations” when they killed a UN staff member and wounded a second one last week in Gaza when a marked UN vehicle was shelled and hit with a drone-dropped grenade.Israel has faced mounting problems on the international stage in recent days. On Wednesday, after Ireland, Norway and Spain said they would recognise Palestinian statehood, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, expressed concern over Israel’s isolation.“As a country that stands strong in defence of Israel in international forums like the United Nations, we certainly have seen a growing chorus of voices, including voices that had previously been in support of Israel, drift in another direction.“That is of concern to us because we do not believe that that contributes to Israel’s long-term security or vitality … So that’s something we have discussed with the Israeli government.“President Biden … has been on the record supporting a two-state solution. He has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition.”Nevertheless, Sullivan criticised Israel’s decision to respond to the recognition announcement by withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority, saying: “I think it’s wrong on a strategic basis because withholding funds destabilises the West Bank. It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people, which is in Israel’s interests. And I think it’s wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people.”Sullivan expanded on comments to the Senate foreign relations committee by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday in which he said the administration was ready to work with Congress on enacting potential penalties against the ICC in response to its attempt to seek Netanyahu’s arrest.“We’re in consultations on a bipartisan, bicameral basis with [Capitol] Hill on all of the options for how to respond to what the ICC has just done. We haven’t made any determinations,” Sullivan said.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionRepublicans in the Senate and House of Representatives have publicly mooted legislation against the ICC, of which the US is not a member, although it has supported some of its previous attempts at mounting prosecutions, notably against the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, over the invasion of Ukraine.Israel launched devastating airstrikes on Gaza early on Thursday while also saying it was ready to resume stalled talks on a truce and hostage release deal with Hamas to pause the war raging since 7 October.The Gaza Strip’s civil defence agency said two predawn airstrikes had killed 26 people, including 15 children, in Gaza City alone.Agency spokesperson Mahmud Bassal said one strike hit a family house, killing 16 people, in Al-Daraj, and another killed 10 people inside a mosque compound.There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.Fierce street battles also raged in Jabaliya and Rafah in Gaza, where the armed wings of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad said they had fired mortar barrages at Israeli troops.About 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed and 250 kidnapped when Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007, staged a surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October last year. About 36,000 Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed in Israel’s military response. More

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    Corporations are forcing Americans to pay more for less – in their own words | Matt Stoller

    In 2022, the Biden administration and the oil industry were in a brutal fight over oil prices. The president was demanding that domestic oil producers invest and drill more to address spiking costs, but Texas frackers were recalcitrant. “Whether it’s $150 oil, $200 oil, or $100 oil, we’re not going to change our growth plans,” the Pioneer CEO, Scott Sheffield, said, echoing comments from other leaders at different domestic firms. Profits would go to investors, not to more rigs to address pain at the pump.The oil barons won the fight. Profits in the oil industry jumped from virtually nothing in 2020 to the hundreds of billions in 2021, and then doubled again in 2022. And yet, economists did not see any sort of plot at work. “Don’t blame the oil companies for their high profits,” said the economist Olivier Blanchard. “It is not price gouging, just how markets work.”Three weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission released information showing how naive such statements really were. Sheffield, it turns out, allegedly helped engineer a price-fixing scheme to reduce oil production and increase prices for Americans at the pump. His goal was to end fierce competition in the industry, which had, as he put it, “lowered the price by $20 to $30 per barrel over the past 10 years”. The FTC banned Sheffield from his corporation’s board and has reportedly referred allegations against Sheffield to the Department of Justice for possible criminal investigation.The magnitude of this alleged plot is stunning. Oil prices are controlled by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), a cartel composed of nations with known oil reserves. Because Opec is made up of governments, price-fixing law doesn’t apply. But these laws do apply to domestic US firms engaged in shale oil production, who competed fiercely with Opec from 2014 to 2016 for market share, bringing down prices in the interim.In 2017, tired of this price war, Texas oilmen and Opec officials began sitting down to dinners, and by 2021, Texas had de facto joined Opec. Companies like Pioneer, Devon Energy and Continental Resources publicly pledged to hold back production. As the FTC found, Sheffield was also privately sending hundreds of text and WhatsApp messages to Opec officials, seeking to align US producers with the global cartel.Class-action lawyers are on top of the scandal, but there’s also increasing political interest. At a hearing last week, the US representatives Rosa DeLauro and Matt Cartwright began criticizing “big oil” for this scheme, and Representative Mark Pocan even called for jail time for the oil executives allegedly involved. The top Democrat on the powerful energy and commerce committee, Frank Pallone, just launched a wide-ranging investigation across the industry.The US consumes 7bn barrels of oil a year, meaning that if the dollar amount went up by $20-30, as Sheffield calculated, that’s roughly $400-700 a person in America, a transfer from consumers to oil men and their private equity backers. That’s a not small amount of what inflation wrought in 2021, which was about $4,700 per capita in increased prices. (I suspect the amount is actually more than $20-30 a barrel, since price spikes tend to be larger than the average over long periods of time. But we’ll leave it at what Sheffield calculated.)What is perhaps most shocking about this scandal is not that it happened, but that it happened in plain sight. Oil CEOs weren’t hiding. In 2021, as prices rose on the end of Covid lockdowns, Sheffield publicly threatened rivals who might increase production, saying “all the shareholders that I’ve talked to said that if anybody goes back to growth, they will punish those companies”.For years, there has been a debate between macro-economists like Blanchard about the source of post-Covid inflation. Many economists chalked up price hikes to workers demanding more money and saw the way to address it as scaring workers into accepting less money by throwing a bunch of them out of work. “We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation,” said Larry Summers. That’s what their models told them.By contrast, 85% of Americans, along with a few iconoclastic scholars and writers, said “corporations being greedy and raising prices to make record profits” was the cause of inflation. Why? Well it might have been because they noticed that CEOs were routinely telling investors that they were raising prices to increase margins, not to meet wage demands. Or it might have been because they experienced large and unexplained price increases in meat, rent, hotels, groceries and restaurants. Indeed, when the CEO of Wendy’s recently said Wendy’s was considering using AI to engage in dynamic pricing, the public outrage was palpable.It’s time to declare the debate over. In 2021, the total corporate profit increase was $730bn, or a little over $2,100 a person. That’s a large chunk of the inflationary increase in costs. Moreover, the price-fixing in the oil industry, which contributed roughly $200bn of that, isn’t an anomaly.Take post-Covid rent hikes. One software and consulting pricing firm for landlords, RealPage, specialized in telling its clients to hike rents more than they otherwise might. As of December of 2020, RealPage had nearly 32,000 clients, including “10 largest multifamily property management companies in the United States”. There are multiple antitrust suits accusing the private equity-owned firm of organizing a massive price-fixing conspiracy to inflate rents across the board.Beyond rent, the Biden administration or private plaintiffs now have credible antitrust claims against firms engaged in price-fixing in meat, hotels and large online sellers like Amazon. Corporations in a range of industries have made comments similar to those of Sheffield.Alex Cisneros, an executive for Red Roof Inn, told a trade outlet that Red Roof Inn was using a software package called STR from CoStar to systematically hike prices across the hotel industry. “Red Roof’s franchisees for the most part are making more money with less occupancy,” Hotel News Now explained. “Red Roof is now providing more data to franchisees to educate and get them comfortable commanding higher rates.”According to a lawsuit, an unnamed executive at Smithfield, a pork processor, summarized the advice he got from Agri Stats, a consulting firm that coordinates production in the industry, as: “Just raise your price.”Rent, meat, oil and hotels are big sectors, so criminal activity in the form of price-fixing to boost profits should bust through the illusions economists have about how our markets really work. There are also a number of concrete steps policymakers can take to respond to this price-fixing.The first is to arrest or sue the offending executives for criminal activity.The second is to strengthen price-fixing and merger laws, allow more private class-action suits, force judges to speed up cases and increase the budget of antitrust enforcers to make collusion more difficult.The third is to reform the Federal Reserve so policymakers there stop using macro-economic models that avoid considerations of profits and price-fixing.And the fourth is, frankly, political. One key reason there is action on these schemes is because Biden has prioritized antitrust enforcement. He hasn’t put enough into antitrust, and he doesn’t talk about it very often. But he should, or else Americans are likely to fall into the trap of thinking that what is good for big business is good for their pocketbooks, when the opposite is so often the case.
    Matt Stoller is a writer and former policymaker who focuses on the politics of market power and antitrust More

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    Majority of Americans wrongly believe US is in recession – and most blame Biden

    Nearly three in five Americans wrongly believe the US is in an economic recession, and the majority blame the Biden administration, according to a Harris poll conducted exclusively for the Guardian. The survey found persistent pessimism about the economy as election day draws closer.The poll highlighted many misconceptions people have about the economy, including:
    55% believe the economy is shrinking, and 56% think the US is experiencing a recession, though the broadest measure of the economy, gross domestic product (GDP), has been growing.
    49% believe the S&P 500 stock market index is down for the year, though the index went up about 24% in 2023 and is up more than 12% this year.
    49% believe that unemployment is at a 50-year high, though the unemployment rate has been under 4%, a near 50-year low.
    Many Americans put the blame on Biden for the state of the economy, with 58% of those polled saying the economy is worsening due to mismanagement from the presidential administration.The poll underscored people’s complicated emotions around inflation. The vast majority of respondents, 72%, indicated they think inflation is increasing. In reality, the rate of inflation has fallen sharply from its post-Covid peak of 9.1% and has been fluctuating between 3% and 4% a year.In April, the inflation rate went down from 3.5% to 3.4% – far from inflation’s 40-year peak of 9.1% in June 2022 – triggering a stock market rally that pushed the Dow Jones index to a record high.A recession is generally defined by a decrease in economic activity, typically measured as gross domestic product (GDP), over two successive quarters, although in the US the National Bureau of Economic Research (NEBR) has the final say. US GDP has been rising over the last few years, barring a brief contraction in 2022, which the NEBR did not deem a recession.The only recent recession was in 2020, early in the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the US economy has grown considerably. Unemployment has also hit historic lows, wages have been going up and consumer spending has been strong.But the road to recovery has been bumpy, largely because of inflation and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to tamp down high prices.Despite previously suggesting the Fed could start lowering rates this year, Fed officials have recently indicated interest rates will remain elevated in the near future. While inflation has eased considerably since its peak in 2022, officials continue to say inflation remains high because it remains above the Fed’s target of 2% a year.After a tumultuous ride of inflation and high interest rates, voters are uncertain about what’s next. Consumer confidence fell to a six-month low in May.So even though economic data, like GDP, implies strength in the economy, there’s a stubborn gap between the reality represented in that data – what economists use to gauge the economy’s health – and the emotional reality that underlies how Americans feel about the economy. In the poll, 55% think the economy is only getting worse.Some have called the phenomenon a “vibecession”, a term first coined by the economics writer Kyla Scanlon to describe the widespread pessimism about the economy that defies statistics that show the economy is actually doing OK.While inflation has been down, prices are at a higher level compared with just a few years ago. And prices are still going up, just at a slower pace than at inflation’s peak.Americans are clearly still reeling from price increases. In the poll, 70% of Americans said their biggest economic concern was the cost of living. About the same percentage of people, 68%, said that inflation was top of mind.The poll showed little change in Americans’ economic outlook from a Harris poll conducted for the Guardian on the economy in September 2023.A similar percentage of respondents agreed “it’s difficult to be happy about positive economic news when I feel financially squeezed each month” and that the economy was worse than the media made it out to be.Another thing that hasn’t changed: views on the economy largely depend on which political party people belong to. Republicans were much more likely to report feeling down about the economy than Democrats. The vast majority of Republicans believe that the economy is shrinking, inflation is increasing and the economy is getting worse overall. A significant but smaller percentage of Democrats, less than 40%, believed the same.Unsurprisingly, more Republicans than Democrats believe the economy is worsening due to the mismanagement of the Biden administration.Something both Republicans and Democrats agree on: they don’t know who to trust when it comes to learning about the economy. In both September and May, a majority of respondents – more than 60% – indicated skepticism over economic news.The economy continues to present a major challenge to Joe Biden in his re-election bid. Though he has tried to tout “Bidenomics”, or his domestic economy record, including his $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill from 2022, 70% of Republicans and 39% of Democrats seem to think he’s making the economy worse.But it’s not all bad news for Biden. Republican voters were slightly more optimistic about the lasting impacts of “Bidenomics” than they were in the September Harris poll. Four in 10 Republicans, an 11 percentage-point increase from September, indicated they believe Bidenomics will have a positive lasting impact, while 81% of Democrats said the same. And three-quarters of everyone polled said they support at least one of the key pillars of Bidenomics, which include investments in infrastructure, hi-tech electronics manufacturing, clean-energy facilities and more union jobs.Yet even with these small strands of approval, pessimism about the overall economy is pervasive. It will be an uphill battle for Biden to convince voters to be more hopeful.“What Americans are saying in this data is: ‘Economists may say things are getting better, but we’re not feeling it where I live,’” said John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll. “Unwinding four years of uncertainty takes time. Leaders have to understand this and bring the public along.” More