The pandemic is the main cause of an overall seven percent drop, a figure representing mass job losses and businesses shutting down.
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- Associated Press
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China stands ready to help Kenya deal with its debt challenges, it's embassy in Nairobi said on Monday (January 18) adding that both sides are holding "smooth" talks over the issues. Beijing is one of Kenya's biggest external creditors, having lent billions of dollars for the construction of rail lines and other infrastructure projects in the past decade. But after months of lockdown measures, the East African country's revenues have been pummeled, its debts are falling due and it is grappling with gaping fiscal deficits. In a statement the embassy in Nairobi said China attaches "great importance" to debt suspension and alleviation in African countries, including Kenya. The embassy said China has signed debt service suspension agreements with 12 African countries and provided waivers of matured interest-free loans for 15 under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. That scheme allows the world's poorer countries to defer official bilateral payments through to the end of June but last week World Bank President David Malpass, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, expressed frustration at a lack of private sector support for the initiative at a time when many countries are grappling with economic and health crises. "Looking at it from the standpoint of the private sector, they say a contract is a contract. But I guess I would push back and say throughout history there have been occasions where there needs to be deep debt reduction and this clearly is one of those occasions. So I'm, I'm, I urge the private sector to take a look country by country at the over-indebtedness and look for ways to share the burden with the official bilateral creditors." The Chinese embassy did not say whether Kenya will get relief through the same G20 initiative or a separate deal. Last week Kenya secured a debt repayment relief deal with the Paris Club of international lenders and is seeking further relief from other bilateral creditors.
- National Review
- The Independent
Bill Barr told Trump that ‘clownish’ legal team was lying to him about ‘bull***’ voter fraud claims, reports say
Relationship between Barr and Trump fell apart after Trump’s attention overtaken by election fraud conspiracy theories
- NBC News
- National Review
- The Telegraph
- National Review
At the outset of the pandemic, the government undertook a deliberate effort to reduce economic activity in what was widely thought to be a necessary measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. Whereas most recessions call for policy that stimulates the economy, the COVID-19 recession called for the opposite — measures that would enable workers and businesses to hit pause until a vaccine or therapeutic became widely available. Now that vaccines are being administered, policymakers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark. The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place. Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work. Meanwhile, Biden’s proposed minimum-wage increase to $15 nationally would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million jobs, hitting low-income states hardest. In Mississippi, where the median wage is $15, as many as half the state’s workers would be at risk. A minimum-wage hike may be high on the Democratic wish list, but it does not belong in an emergency-relief bill. The Biden plan isn’t all Democratic priorities, though. He took a page from Trump’s book and proposed $1,400 checks to households, bringing the second-round total to $2,000. With household income now 8 percent above the pre-pandemic trend, additional checks would do little more than pad savings accounts. Indeed, 80 percent of the recipients of last year’s checks put the money into savings or debt payments, not consumption. The flagship item in Biden’s plan would do little to spur economic growth even on Keynesian assumptions. The same goes for state and local aid, for which Biden is seeking $370 billion on top of $170 billion in public-education grants. The total of $540 billion far surpasses the roughly $50 billion hit to state and local tax revenues last year. As we wrote in December, states and cities are slow to spend federal grants, so the lion’s share of this stimulus would not show up until 2023. Rather than attempting to stimulate the economy, Biden is hoping to launder bailouts of profligate Democratic states through COVID-19 relief. Other parts of the bill — expansions of the earned-income and child-tax credits — are defensible long-term structural reforms, but as year-long emergency measures, they will have the same muted effect as direct checks. By including a slew of proposals unrelated to the pandemic, Biden has weakened his hand in negotiations and made it less likely that urgent measures pass quickly. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic policymakers rose to the occasion. Following an unprecedented external shock, the U.S. economy has emerged in relatively good shape, with less unemployment and bankruptcy than most feared. But the policies implemented to curb COVID-19 are not suited for what will begin to become, over the course of this year, a post-pandemic economy. Biden may have campaigned during a recession, but he is taking office during a recovery. He should govern accordingly.
- The Telegraph
The United States called on China on Monday to allow an expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO) to interview "care givers, former patients and lab workers" in the central city of Wuhan, drawing a rebuke from Beijing. The team of WHO-led independent experts trying to determine the origins of the new coronavirus arrived on Jan. 14 in Wuhan where they are holding teleconferences with Chinese counterparts during a two-week quarantine before starting work on the ground. The United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of its initial outbreak, has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.
The communications director for Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a firebrand Republican freshman who boasts about carrying a gun to work, has quit after less than two weeks on the job.Why it matters: Ben Goldey’s resignation cited last week's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which followed efforts by Boebert and lawmakers to block certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The Hill veteran’s departure highlights the deep divide among Republicans over President Trump’s conduct.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What we’re hearing: Goldey said in a statement to Axios: "Following the events of January 6th, I’ve decided to part ways with the office. I wish her and the people of Colorado’s Third District the best."Between the lines: Boebert is a strident Trump supporter firmly on the right flank of the House GOP caucus. She was clear about her views during her campaign, but they have suddenly become politically toxic following last week's attack. * Boebert’s quickly become a lightning rod by railing against “fraudulent” votes for Biden in a floor speech ahead of the attack, and by making a show — including in an ad filmed on the Hill — of her desire to carry a handgun in the Capitol. * Goldey, by contrast, has a more establishment pedigree. He was the press secretary at the Department of Interior until this year, and previously worked for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.Be smart: Goldey’s resignation underscores larger Republican divisions, particularly in the House, where ten GOP members - including conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney - voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday. * The same divisions are evident on the other side of the Capitol. Sen. Ted Cruz's communications director, Lauren Blair Bianchi, also resigned on Monday, reportedly over Cruz's role in the effort to deny certification for Biden. * Trump has fueled the split since the election, demanding the president-elect’s win be overturned, helping incite the violence at the Capitol last week and remaining defiant about his behavior even as he faced his second impeachment by the House yesterday.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Week
Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.> Israel's reproduction number appears to have declined rather sharply in recent days, with around 25% of the country vaccinated, and some additional percentage having at least partial immunity via prior infection. pic.twitter.com/sVyCYYd9dj> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.> Estimated vaccine efficacy is a function of relative risk of infection in the vaccinated...when there is indirect protection via herd effects, we expect efficacy estimates to decrease because the risk among unvaccinated individuals declines.> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going.More stories from theweek.com What the Constitution really says about removal from office Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment
- The Telegraph
A Christian girl has been taken into care in Pakistan after allegedly being abducted by a Muslim man who forced her to marry him and kept her chained up in a cattle pen. The girl spent five months chained up in the pen in the yard of her 45-year-old captor's home, where she was forced to work all day clearing the animals’ dung, her family claim. They said that when she was rescued by police last month, she had cuts on her ankles left by the shackles put on her by captor, who is also said to have raped her repeatedly. The case has now been taken up by human rights groups, who say the family's initial complaint to police went ignored for three months. They claim that every year, hundreds of girls from Pakistan's Christian and Hindu minority groups are abducted and forced into Muslim marriage, with the justice system often turning a blind eye for fear of offending Islamic hardliners. They say that Britain, which gives £302 million in aid last year to Pakistan, should insist that more is done to counter prejudices against minorities and challenge institutionalised tolerance of sexual abuse. In November, The Telegraph reported on the case a 14-year-old girl allegedly kidnapped by a Muslim man who then used threats of violence to make her sign false papers consenting to marriage. When she escaped from his custody, a court initially ruled the marriage legal and returned her to her abductor's home. She is now in hiding, with the British charity Aid to the Church in Need petitioning Boris Johnson to allow her to seek asylum in Britain.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” is the one line many white Americans can recite from a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech. For instance, in a session last year about racism in her workplace, one white professional relied on this quote as she attempted to convince her colleagues and me that the Black Lives Matter movement is racist. King would’ve wanted us to recognize that all lives matter, regardless of color, she asserted.