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Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s Report Bares Lawmakers’ Posts Bashing Election Before Capitol Riot

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued a massive 2,000-page report on Friday exposing thousands of social media posts by GOP lawmakers attacking the presidential election and spreading lies before and after the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results.

Lofgren, chair of the House Administration Committee, indicated that the information could be used to oust — or criminally charge — lawmakers who illegally fomented insurrection against the very government they’ve taken a vow to serve.

The exposure of posts in Lofgren’s “Social Media Review” followed a report last week in The Intercept that the FBI has already collected “thousands of phone and electronic records” of people who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Investigators are targeting communications between members of Congress or their staffs, and the pro-Trump insurrectionists, CNN reported, seeking any indication of conspiracies to overthrow the government. 

Lofgren’s report targets messages by Republican lawmakers who voted to challenge the presidential election results and who continued to peddle lies and conspiracy theories about the November vote even after the Capitol insurrection, which FBI Director Christopher Wray has characterized as domestic terrorism.

Some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in the House posted more than 100 messages each casting doubt on the presidential election results in less than three months, according to the collected messages.

Messages posted by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who was the keynote speaker at a white nationalist conference in Florida just last week, took up 177 pages in the report. He peddled baseless claims that the election had been stolen and that officials who had been upholding the legitimate election were committing “treason and sedition.”

Gosar had several interactions with “@Ali” on Twitter, the since-suspended username for Ali Alexander, one of the main organizers of the “Stop the Steal” campaign as well as the rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to his published posts.

Posts by incendiary QAnon supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) took up 100 pages in the report.

“Like former President Trump, any elected Member of Congress who aided and abetted the insurrection or incited the attack seriously threatened our democratic government,” Lofgren wrote in the introduction to her report.

“They would have betrayed their oath of office and would be implicated in the same constitutional provision cited in the article of impeachment” against Trump following the Capitol riot, she noted.

“That provision prohibits any person who has previously taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution but subsequently engaged in insurrection or rebellion from serving in Congress,” Lofgren added.

The report by Lofgren’s staff is the first publicly available compilation of Facebook and Twitter posts from Nov. 3, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, by the 147 House Republicans who voted to challenge state-certified Electoral College votes in an attempt to stop Joe Biden from taking office.

“Statements which are readily available in the public arena may be part of any consideration of Congress’ constitutional prerogatives and responsibilities,” Lofgren noted. 

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Why the Canadian Housing Market Is Soaring in the Pandemic

This week began with an unusual apology. Evan Siddall, the president and chief executive of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, took to Twitter to acknowledge that the federal agency had erred last year when it forecast that the pandemic-induced economic collapse might cause house prices to fall by as much as 18 percent.

Instead, of course, Canada is talking again about whether most of the country is in a soon-to-burst real estate bubble. In Vancouver last month, the benchmark price for detached homes rose by 13.7 percent compared with a year earlier, reaching 1.6 million Canadian dollars. In the Toronto area, the average selling price for detached homes rose by 23.1 percent over the same time period, and a composite price that includes all kinds of housing topped 1 million dollars.

A sellers’ market prevails in many parts of the country, even at a time of economic distress for many. After my mother died earlier this year, I was surprised to learn that bidding wars, something I associated with Toronto and Vancouver, were now common in my hometown, Windsor, Ontario, for sales of even relatively modest houses like hers. In my neighborhood in Ottawa, a city that posted a record number of house sales last month, little time elapses before “for sale” signs are plastered with “sold” stickers.

But the pandemic didn’t start that way. In his Twitter posts, Mr. Siddall noted that during the first months of the crisis, the real estate market had severely contracted.

About a quarter of Canadians were on emergency income support after their jobs were suspended because of shutdowns, large numbers of Canadians were deferring their mortgage payments, and Mr. Siddall’s agency had stepped in to buy 150 billion dollars in mortgage securities to keep the market alive. And on top of that, prices in many places were, in Mr. Siddall’s view, already unsustainable.

A report from his agency shows why — despite those factors — the market soared instead of floundering.

One factor is that the pandemic didn’t hit the earnings of high-income people as hard as it hit those of others. In Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the report found, housing price increases were most pronounced among higher-priced houses. People with higher incomes have suffered less from unemployment because they tend to have jobs that can be done remotely.

They were also able to save more than usual, because restrictions on travel and shopping meant they spent less. Combined with ultralow mortgage rates, houses became an attractive target for spending that money.

Another reason demand surged, the report found, was that when the market nearly shut down early in the pandemic, it created pent-up demand that was unleashed later last year. Buyers soon outnumbered sellers on the market in many regions, the report concludes — a perfect situation for sellers.

Mr. Siddall, who will soon step down from his already extended tenure at C.M.H.C., is no favorite of the real estate industry. Many of those in the business disliked his agency’s tightening of the qualifying rules for the mortgage insurance it sells to banks for lending to heavily indebted home buyers. And many accuse him of being a spoilsport who has scared away buyers with his warnings.

Last year when he offered the incorrect market prediction, Mr. Siddall said that he had a duty to warn young Canadians about the financial perils that a drop in house prices, an increase in interest rates and increasing personal debt levels could bring.

While admitting his forecasting error, Mr. Siddall was no less cautious about the future this week.

“Times were uncertain and I felt that a warning about house prices was responsible,” he wrote about last year’s caution. “Today, we remain very concerned.”

  • Rescue crews combined to battle heavy seas and high winds and save all 32 crew members aboard a scallop trawler from Nova Scotia that ultimately sank after a fire.

  • Defense lawyers failed in their bid to have a man declared not criminally responsible, because of his autism spectrum disorder, for using a rented van to kill 10 people in Toronto and injure 16 others. The legal move angered many in the autism community and was largely dismissed by a judge as she convicted the man of murder and attempted murder.

  • A noted hockey author and journalist, Roy MacGregor, looks back on the life of Walter Gretzky, Canada’s most famous hockey dad, who died this week.

  • The icy winter shoreline of Lake Huron in Ontario’s Bruce County doesn’t seem like an obvious place to take up surfing. But for some, its shortcomings are more than offset by the strong wind and the large waves it offers.

  • Last weekend, 35 top players in women’s hockey from Canada, the United States and Europe finally hit the ice for their first competitive games against women since February 2020.

  • Times critic Natalia Winkelman reviews “The Walrus and the Whistleblower,” a documentary about a former trainer’s efforts to free a walrus named Smooshi from an aquatic park in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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Breaking New

Meghan Markle’s ‘Suits’ co-star Patrick J. Adams slams royal family

Meghan Markle’s latest voice of support is coming from her former “Suits” co-star.

Patrick J. Adams took to Twitter to defend the “enthusiastic, kind, cooperative, giving, joyful” Markle, who played his wife on the series, amid claims she bullied her royal aides.

“She has always been a powerful woman with a deep sense of morality and a fierce work ethic and has never been afraid to speak up, be heard and defend herself and those she holds dear,” he wrote on Friday.

Adams, 39, blasted the royal family, which he described at best “complicated and at worst, seemingly archaic and toxic” and defended Markle, who faced “endless racist, slanderous, clickbaiting vitriol” from the British press.

“It’s OBSCENE that the Royal Family, who’s newest member is currently GROWING INSIDE OF HER, is promoting and amplifying accusations of ‘bullying’ against a woman who herself was basically forced to flea [sic] the UK in order protect her family and her own mental health,” Adams continued, referring to Markle’s current pregnancy.

She and husband Prince Harry are already parents to nearly 2-year-old Archie.

Adams also gave his “opinion” regarding Buckingham Palace and its decision to probe the allegations, writing, “this newest chapter and it’s [sic] timing is just another stunning example of the shamelessness of a institution that has outlived its relevance, is way overdrawn on credibility and apparently bankrupt of decency.”

Adams, who also attended Prince Harry and Markle’s wedding with his wife Troian Bellisario, ended his rant by requesting the Firm back off of Markle.

“Find someone else to admonish, berate and torment,” he wrote. “My friend Meghan is way out of your league.”

Fans will hear the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s side of the story on Sunday during their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey on CBS.

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UK’s new Brexit man makes his mark with Northern Ireland row – POLITICO

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s combative new Brexit minister is already ruffling feathers in Brussels.

David Frost managed to annoy both the Irish and the European Commission’s top brass with a unilateral U.K. decision to exempt British firms from some bureaucracy when shipping food to Northern Ireland, a move the EU says breaches the Brexit divorce deal.

The policy, announced by the U.K. in a written statement, marks Frost’s opening gambit as Johnson’s new Brexit “super minister,” a role he only just inherited from Michael Gove. As Britain’s former chief Brexit negotiator, Frost had been expected to take on a more behind-the-scenes policy job, but was given the expanded remit in a shake-up announced last month.

The decision Wednesday caused consternation in Brussels, where officials had been expected to resolve ongoing trade disruption in Northern Ireland later this month through a fresh meeting of the EU-U.K. Joint Committee, which oversees the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and its protocol on the sensitive Northern Ireland border.

Brussels is now considering legal action after Britain said it would unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland’s ports for at least six months, and the general mood at the Commission is that the U.K. has ignored successive attempts at engagement.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for talks with London on the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal, are “angry and deeply worried” at what they see as a provocation and breach of trust by the Brits, an EU official said.

Šefčovič was left perplexed by the absence of a phone call or a message from Frost in advance of the government’s statement. The two did not speak until Wednesday evening, hours after the announcement, although the U.K. said the plan was raised at official level and with the Irish government before it was announced.

Frost, who took over his new role on Tuesday, “didn’t have time before Wednesday to speak to Šefčovič but had time to call [French Europe Minister] Clément Beaune,” the official complained.

“The Commission is very concerned since yesterday,” the same official added. “The first thing Frost has done is unilaterally taking the freedom to do whatever they want.”

First move

It is not the first time the EU has felt snubbed by Britain since it left the bloc. At the last Joint Committee meeting in February, Šefčovič offered to meet again in late March, days before some of the controversial Northern Ireland grace periods are set to expire.

He also offered technical discussions or a meeting of the deal’s specialized committee on Northern Ireland, the official said, but the British government has yet to reply.

At that meeting, Šefčovič did not rule out extending the grace periods, the same official added. But he is said to have told Gove, his counterpart at the time, that the Commission needed the British government to offer an “operational plan” including “solid arguments” for extension in order to persuade EU member states to agree.

Johnson’s official spokesman said Thursday that the U.K. government needed to take action “to address the disproportionate impact that some aspects of the protocol are having on the citizens of Northern Ireland contrary to its intended purpose” and that it gave due notice to the EU.

“We notified the European Commission at official level earlier this week,” the spokesman said. “We also informed the Irish government earlier this week and then Lord Frost last night in his call to Šefčovič obviously discussed this at length and set out the rationale and the reasons for it.”

The Commission remains open to further discussions, but a second EU official said it is up to the U.K. to take the initiative. “I would be very surprised if Šefčovič makes the first move now,” they said.

In parallel, the EU is considering legal action under Article 12 of the Northern Ireland protocol. The Commission could launch an infringement procedure against the U.K., as it did with the incendiary Internal Market Bill last year, taking its case to the Court of Justice of the EU. Infringement procedures tend to drag out, but Brussels could ask the court for interim measures or an accelerated process.

Another option would be to trigger the dispute settlement mechanism in the Brexit divorce deal. The Commission is consulting on whether this could run in parallel to the infringement procedure, the first official said.

As a last resort, the link between the Withdrawal Agreement, which agreed Britain’s exit, and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which agreed the two sides’ future trade ties, could allow the EU to impose tariffs on certain U.K. goods. However, this option may be too politically sensitive and could have long-term repercussions on, for instance, Northern Ireland’s 2024 vote on whether to keep the protocol in place, they added.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Thursday he does not favor legal action against the British government, but argued London’s unilateral move had damaged trust just when both sides were making progress. It would, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, create “a much more formalized and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve the problems together.”

Downing Street rejected Coveney’s characterization. “We continue to work closely with them [the EU] through the Joint Committee process and remain committed to the Northern Ireland protocol, but we want to address those areas where there are issues that have arisen,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Frost’s move has already angered MEPs. Leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups on Thursday postponed a decision on when to vote to ratify the post-Brexit trade deal, which has still not been formally approved there.

Defending Frost’s opening play on Thursday night, his cabinet colleague Liz Truss told Times Radio: “What we want to do, what Lord Frost wants to do, is sit around the table with the EU, have a proper discussion and make sure that we keep trade flowing between the EU in the U.K.”

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Breaking New

Salesforce LinkedIn account hijacked, Black Lives Matter post added

Salesforce has said before that Black lives matter, but a message posted to the software company’s LinkedIn account last Friday expressed the sentiment about racial equality more vigorously than usual.

“Hey everybody, we just want you to know what while CPAC is going on, BLACK LIVES STILL F—–G MATTER. PEACE,” read a post on Salesforce’s account, which has more than 2 million followers. (Last week, conservatives gathered in Florida to attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.) The post has since been deleted.

The incident highlights the challenges that minorities have faced inside Salesforce and other technology companies that have sought to boost diversity.

“Last Friday, we became aware of unauthorized access to one of our social media accounts. We took quick action and secured it,” a Salesforce spokesperson told CNBC in an email on Wednesday. The spokesperson didn’t comment on the content of the LinkedIn post but did point to a February blog post showing the status of diversity efforts.

As of November, 3.4% of Salesforce employees in the U.S. were Black, up from 2.8% in November 2018, according to the company’s diversity reports. Black people represented 12.8% of the U.S. population in 2019, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate based on the American Community Survey.

In recent weeks, two Black people have come forward to talk about their struggles working at Salesforce. Cynthia Perry, a senior manager who worked on design research, said in the resignation letter she posted on LinkedIn that she had “been gaslit, manipulated, bullied, neglected and mostly unsupported” as a Salesforce employee.

Vivianne Castillo, who had been a manager for design research and innovation, posted her resignation letter on LinkedIn as well, saying she was regularly asked to help with internal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for free on top of her work.

Castillo alluded to miners sending canaries into coal mines to check for safety risks before going in. “I’ve grown tired of watching the canaries of underrepresented minorities leave Salesforce, only to watch Salesforce ramp up their efforts to throw more canaries into the culture that caused the previous ones to leave or worse — suffer in silence.”

In July, following protests of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, Salesforce said it hoped to increase the number of Black employees in the U.S. by 50% by the end of 2023.

Other companies also want to hire more Black workers, although not every effort is a smash hit. CNBC reported last month on issues that Black college students encountered while going through Google’s Howard West program, including discriminatory treatment from Google employees, with fewer participants than planned.

After Salesforce’s LinkedIn account published the message on Friday, hundreds reacted with emojis such as the thumbs up and heart, and some users left comments.

“Ohanaaaaa,” one Salesforce employee wrote, using the Hawaiian word for family, which Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff regularly uses. “Yessss! You’re part of ours,” the Salesforce account wrote in reply. (In 2018, Bloomberg reported that some Salesforce employees had expressed that the company had misappropriated Hawaiian words and culture.)

“Language,” another Salesforce employee wrote in response to the original post.

“I’m Salesforce, b—-,” the company account replied.

“You are not,” the employee wrote back. “Your language demonstrates this.”

The Salesforce account on Friday also posted a separate post showing support transgender people.

“SALESFORCE wants you to know that TRANS lives matter!” said the message, which was also deleted shortly after it had appeared online.

— Salvador Rodriguez contributed to this report.

WATCH: Salesforce CEO talks plans to allow employees to work from anywhere

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Breaking New

‘Party Down’ Revival In Development At Starz

It seems that Starz is catering to one of its niche fan bases. 

The network is developing a revival of the cult comedy “Party Down,” which will run for a six-part limited series, Starz announced Thursday. 

The new series will be executive produced by “Party Down” alumni Rob Thomas (“Veronica Mars,” “iZombie”) along with John Enbom (“iZombie,” “Benched”), Paul Rudd and Dan Etheridge (“Veronica Mars,” iZombie”). Enbom will also serve as showrunner. 

With this news in mind, we can’t help but ask fans who felt the show was canceled too soon:

The dark and often awkward comedy — which ran for two seasons in 2009 and 2010 — followed six down-on-their-luck caterers in Los Angeles who typically got way too involved with their clientele. The show boasted a cast of exceptional comedic actors: Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Martin Starr and Ryan Hansen. In the second season, Megan Mullally joined the cast, and Lynch shifted to a guest starring role.

And although Starz didn’t make any official cast announcements, The Hollywood Reporter said “much of the cast likely to return” — and the Twitter reactions of the stars of the original series seemed to echo that sentiment:

“At the end of 2019, the ‘Party Down’ cast and producers were all reunited at a retrospective for the show hosted by Vulture. We had such a good time that we wanted to find a way to get the team back together again,” Thomas said Thursday.

“The cast is so busy these days that finding a window where we can do it may require trigonometry, but we’re determined to make it happen,” he added.

That sounds a lot like we’re going to be seeing our six beloved weirdos again … maybe with some more ridiculous musings on the dangers of smoking pot:

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Proposed E.U. Law Aims to Rectify Gender Pay Gap

Pushing member states to address salary disparities between men and women, the European Union revealed details on Thursday of a proposed law that would require companies to divulge gender pay gaps and give job candidates access to salary information in employment interviews. It also would provide women with better tools to fight for equal pay.

The move comes as female workers across the world have been disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, and it could lead to sanctions on companies that do not comply.

The proposed law would also empower women to verify if they are being fairly compensated in comparison with male colleagues. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to provide workers with the ability to seek proper compensation in case of discrimination.

Under the proposed law, those who believe they are victims could take action through independent monitors of compliance with the equal-pay requirement. They could also press gender-based pay grievances through workers’ representatives, either as individuals or in groups.

“For equal pay, you need transparency,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president, who had pledged to make pay transparency binding after she came into office in December 2019. “Women must know whether their employers treat them fairly. And when this is not the case, they must have the power to fight back and get what they deserve.”

Although theoretically the principle of equal pay for equal work is one of the founding values of the 27-nation European Union, the difference in salaries of men and women doing the same work stands at 14.1 percent, and the difference in pensions is 30 percent, the commission said. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than male ones.

Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, for more than 60 years it seemed out of reach for women across the bloc, which presents itself as the beacon of human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on pay transparency.

The proposed E.U.-wide law requires approval by member countries and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it might be blocked by national governments, as happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on management boards. Wary of these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values and transparency, called the proposal on pay “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations,” underlining that gender equality at work benefited businesses.

“We see quite limited appetite from some member states, and surprisingly from those which already introduced such measures,” Ms. Jourova said. “What gives me hope is that this is heavily needed.”

Companies with more than 250 workers would have to publicly disclose their gender pay gap, reflecting concern for smaller organizations, which have suffered a serious economic blow because of the coronavirus.

“I am aware that this proposal in times of an economic downturn and uncertainty caused by the pandemic may come across as ill-timed for some,” said Helena Dalli, the bloc’s commissioner for equality, highlighting that the law was “duly proportional.”

Under the draft law, national governments would be obliged to punish companies that flout the equal pay measures. The governments could decide on the penalties imposed, including financial sanctions, which must be effective and proportionate, the commission said.

The proposal comes as researchers warn that the virus could significantly delay women’s progress at the workplace. According to the 2020 Women in Work Index, compiled annually across 33 developed countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, economic damage from the pandemic, as well as repercussions from government policies, are disproportionately affecting women. This has reversed the steady trend of gains for women in employment and has led to what the consultancy calls a “shecession.”

Women’s rights groups welcomed the commission’s initiative. “Information is power: pay transparency would enable employees to know the value of their work and negotiate salaries accordingly,” said Carlien Scheele, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality. “This would help tackle discrimination in the workplace, which can only be a boon for gender equality.”

Employers, aware of the proposal’s possible legal and economic repercussions, were careful in their assessment, blaming what they described as deep underlying reasons for gender inequalities.

“Reasonable requirements on pay transparency can be part of the answer,” said Markus J. Beyrer, head of BusinessEurope, a lobbying group. “However, the key to improve gender equality is to address the root causes of inequalities, especially gender stereotypes, labor market segregation and insufficient provision of child care.”

Mr. Beyrer said the commission must respect “national social partners’ competences” and should not “complicate human resources management with excessive administrative burdens and open the way to undue litigation.”

According to Ms. Jourova, f “binding rules” are required, not just reliance on the social responsibility undertaken by companies. “We see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.

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Chris Harrison Plans Return to ‘The Bachelor’ After Stepping Away Last Month

Chris Harrison is owning up to his controversial comments from last month’s Rachel Lindsay interview. The Bachelor host, who’s come under fire in recent weeks for defensive remarks he made to the franchise’s single Black Bachelorette, appeared on Good Morning America to discuss his now infamous conversation with Lindsay. In an interview this morning with GMA, Harrison admitted that he’s an “imperfect man” who “made a mistake” in jumping to defend contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and her racist social media posts from the past few years.

“I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for,” he told GMA host Michael Strahan. “I am committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years and I love it.”

While Harrison has been a Bachelor staple for decades, the longtime host stepped away from his duties last month after asking for people to give Kirkconnell “grace” and suggesting she was a victim of “cancel culture.” During his interview with Lindsay, Harrison also defended Kirkconnell’s photos of herself attending an Old South antebellum party. When the former Bachelorette insisted it “wasn’t a good look” to recreate and celebrate that period in time, Harrison replied, “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”

Now, he admits that his response wasn’t acceptable, and the photos would have been just as harmful three years ago as they are today. “Antebellum parties are not OK,” he told Strahan. “Past, present, future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable.”

Since the interview aired, Harrison has apologized to Lindsay — who said Harrison “talked over” her in the interview and “never gave me room to talk” — but the Bachelorette star has been the target of online bullying and even deactivated her Instagram as a result. “”I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay,” Harrison reflected. “I can’t believe I didn’t speak against antebellum parties, what they stand for. I didn’t say it then and I want to say it now: those parties are not OK, past, present, future.

“And I didn’t speak from my heart. And that is to say that I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and to the Black community,” he said, urging, “To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop. It’s unacceptable.”

Harrison says he’s been educating himself on the issue of race since the interview, seeking out “leading scholars, teachers, [and] faith leaders,” including Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. “I’ve also been working closely with a race educator and strategist. I thank them all,” he said.

Despite speculation he could be leaving the franchise for good, Harrison says he hopes to return to the Bachelor shows, which also include Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor Winter Games and The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart. “I plan to be back and I want to be back,” he said. “And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change. I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress.”

Watch Harrison’s full interview with Strahan on the GMA website.

Where to watch The Bachelor

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Critics question China’s right to host Winter Olympics – POLITICO

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Critics of China’s human rights record have a new sanction in mind for Beijing: stripping the city of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Lawmakers in a number of major Olympic countries, including the Netherlands, Canada and the U.S., have recently said the 2022 Games should be taken away from China because of its repression of its Uighur Muslim minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. The Dutch and Canadian parliaments have officially labeled that repression a “genocide,” as has the U.S. State Department.   

In an interview, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, a Dutch MP from the ruling coalition’s D66 party, pointed to “the largest detention of an ethnic minority since World War II” and highlighted stories of forced sterilization and rape as evidence that China should be stripped of the Olympics.

Sjoerdsma, whose social liberal party initiated the Dutch motion to call the treatment of the Uighur minority a genocide, said athletes should decide for themselves whether to go to Beijing, but he would prefer that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organizes the games, assigned the event to another country. 

“The major sport organizations, whether it’s the Olympics or football, should consider much more thoroughly the human rights situation in a possible host country, and if it’s already allocated … see how the situation develops,” he said. 

In early February, a group of seven Republican U.S. senators, including Rick Scott of Florida, all called for the Beijing Games to be moved. In mid-February, Canadian opposition Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made a similar demand.

This isn’t the first time the location of a looming Olympic Games has sparked debate. Ahead of the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany, teams from a number of countries, including the U.S., considered staying away. In 1980, the U.S. team boycotted the Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

What effect the bubbling resistance has to Beijing as 2022 host remains to be seen. Protests also erupted ahead of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 over China’s policies in Tibet, observers note, but the event went ahead as planned.

Ties Dams, a China researcher at the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank, said the idea of pressuring the Chinese government to change its treatment of the Uighur minority by threatening to boycott the Olympics was unlikely to happen and “naive.”

However, he said that the motion in the Dutch parliament to label the treatment of the Uighur people a genocide might at least force the new government, which will be elected on March 17, to pick sides and either support the hawkish stance on China taken by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration or the more cooperative approach taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Taking a European lead?

The Netherlands, a traditional Winter Olympics powerhouse thanks to its dominance in speed-skating events, has emerged recently as an advocate of using sporting events to hold host nations to account for their human rights policies.

Dutch lawmakers last month adopted a motion calling on the Dutch king and prime minister not to attend the football World Cup in Qatar if the Netherlands qualifies for next year’s tournament, citing the “appalling conditions” for migrant workers building the stadiums.

A similar motion for the Olympics was rejected, but lawmaker Sjoerdsma said he was hopeful it might still pass in the coming weeks, with some parties likely to change their position.

However, the Netherlands’ Olympic Committee sounded a note of caution about how far the country might be ready to go. In response to questions about a potential Dutch boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, a spokesman for the committee said: “In the Netherlands, we have the policy that a sports boycott is only talked about if the Netherlands as a country participates in a larger international boycott involving several sectors. That is not the case.”

Canadian Olympic bosses, prior to the national parliament’s genocide declaration, also said they will not support a boycott.

In an opinion piece from early February — which remains their position — the chiefs of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees wrote that sporting boycotts amounted to “little more than a convenient and politically inexpensive alternative to real and meaningful diplomacy.”  

Chinese pushback 

China, which was angered by the pro-Tibet protests ahead of the 2008 Games, has made clear it is taking any threats of a 2022 boycott very seriously.

“It is very irresponsible for anyone to attempt to interfere with, obstruct or disrupt the organization and operation of the [Winter] Olympics, out of political motives,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last month, responding to calls for an international boycott.

“We believe such moves would not be supported by the international community, and are doomed to failure,” Wang added.

Shortly afterwards, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that the two sides should “take the opportunity of the Beijing Winter Olympics of next year to enhance exchanges on winter sports” and “foster new highlights” in bilateral cooperation.

In the same call, Wang also said China “opposes fabrication and dissemination of lies and fake news” on Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

For its part, the IOC has tried to remain on the political sidelines, telling POLITICO that it remains “neutral” on all global political issues. 

“Awarding the Olympic Games to a National Olympic Committee (NOC) does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in its country,” it said.  

It is a position that has attracted its own criticism. Jules Boykoff, a professor at Pacific University who has written extensively on the Olympics, accused the IOC of “hypocrisy.” 

“The IOC has shown an unfortunate propensity for turning away from human rights atrocities in order to make sure that the games go on,” Boykoff said.

“The Olympic Charter is full of powerful ideas about equality and anti-discrimination, but the IOC ignores its own Charter when it is convenient for them to do so,” he said.   

But what effect does the geopolitical maneuvering have on the real stars of any Olympics?       

The Olympic competitors have been put in a difficult position, said Rob Koehler from Global Athlete, an athlete-led sports movement. 

“As governments call for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, once again athletes are being used as pawns,” Koehler said. “The IOC and IPC first and foremost are to blame for putting athletes in this position.” 

“It is the IOC and IPC who decided to award the games to a country with an abysmal human rights record,” he said.

POLITICO’s China Direct will explore Europe’s diplomatic and commercial relationship with China, delivering expert reporting and analysis every week in your inbox. Sign up today.**

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Breaking New

Stock futures decline, after major averages dip amid rising bond yields

U.S. stock index futures slid during overnight trading on Wednesday, accelerating losses from the regular trading session which saw the major averages finish in the red across the board.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 41 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 0.28% and 0.48%, respectively.

Stocks posted heavy losses during regular trading as rising bond yields spooked investors. The S&P 500 dipped 1.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 119 points, or 0.38%, lower. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative underperformer, falling 2.7% as tech names declined. The index is on track to post its third straight negative week — the longest weekly losing streak since September.

The weakness came as the 10-year Treasury yield extended gains. The benchmark rate climbed to a high of 1.49% on Wednesday before retreating slightly. Last week, the yield surged to a high of 1.6% in a move that some described as a “flash” spike.

“Our current strategy work suggests robust economic growth this year with a modest increase in inflation,” noted Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “In attempting to read the tea leaves, the steepening of the yield curve, in our opinion, reflects the market’s belief that growth and inflation should continue to move back toward appropriate levels as the pandemic eases. We view this as a positive for stocks and other risk assets, like commodities,” he added.

During Wednesday’s session, one bright spot was companies tied to the economy’s reopening. Shares of airline and cruise line operators advanced after President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for all adults by the end of May.

Additional stimulus measures could also inject optimism into the market. The Senate is currently debating the $1.9 trillion relief package passed by the House on Saturday.

“Our macro team sees the economy as spring loaded given the vaccinations and additional stimulus,” Keith Lerner, Truist chief market strategist, wrote in a note to clients. “The ability and desire of the consumer to spend on services and experiences should lead to the best economic growth we have seen in over 35 years.”

On Thursday investors will get another look at the ongoing economic recovery when first-time jobless claims data for the week ending Feb. 27 is released. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones are forecasting 750,000 first-time filers.

On the earnings front, BJ’s Wholesale and Kroger are among the names reporting before the open, while Broadcom, Costco and Gap are on deck to provide quarterly updates after the closing bell.

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