The Police Are Targeting Protest Medics

Protests can be dangerous places, especially demonstrations about police violence where officers use batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets and their fists on the participants.

That’s why people with medical training ― emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors and others ― usually come to provide aid, just like they do at other large gatherings. In addition to assaults by police officers, protesters have to worry about violence from counterprotesters, not to mention injuries from simply being in a large crowd and other health care emergencies, like heatstroke. The need for rapid medical assistance is real.

Whether these volunteer medics support the aims of Black Lives Matter protesters or not, their purpose is to help anyone who becomes sick or injured.

But as police across the United States have made plain ― particularly now, as people take to the streets to protest racism and police violence against Black Americans after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd last week ― it doesn’t matter who you are or why you’re there: The cops will take you out.

On top of instigating violence with peaceful protesters and escalating the demonstrations with shows of force and military-style gear and vehicles (and the actual military), police officers have targeted essential workers such as health care personnel and food deliverers, as well as journalists, including a HuffPost reporter

Police brutality is wrong under any circumstances, but the instances of medical personnel being assaulted or harassed are deeply troubling. 

Police used shotguns to fire bean bags filled with lead pellets at an injured protester and the medics trying to assist him during an Austin, Texas, demonstration.

Police arrested a physician and journalist who attended a protest in New York City to offer his services as a medical doctor.

In Asheville, North Carolina, police officers destroyed a medical assistance tent and the water supplies volunteers brought.

During times of war, soldiers aren’t allowed to attack military medics. It’s in the Geneva Convention, which states

Medical personnel exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical units and establishments, as well as chaplains attached to the armed forces, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.

Even in their combat-ready armor, with their combat-style rifles and combat-looking vehicles, police officers aren’t soldiers and aren’t trained like soldiers. But if they want to dress up like soldiers, they should be expected, at a minimum, to follow the same rules soldiers do.

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Money warning: Savers urged to ‘spend mindfully’ as high-street starts to open

Savings have been pushed to their absolute limits over the last few months and consumers across the UK have been hit hard by coronavirus. The disease has completely upended most people’s lives as income and employment dries up.

 

READ MORE

  • Furlough scheme: What the changes mean for pension savings

This would be hard enough to handle on its own but aggressive lockdown rules meant that people have very limited options for where they can go and what they can spend their money on.

The population at large is likely very eager to get back to some normality.

Activities such as visiting a restaurant or going to the cinema – once they reopen – will feel like a blessing to many who have been stuck at home for months.

Thankfully, the country may slowly be starting to open up again in the coming weeks and months.

On May 25, Boris Johnson in a daily press conference revealed that some parts of the country will soon see life again if the current trends persist.

The Prime Minister said: “Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready.

“So I can announce that it is our intention to allow outdoor markets to reopen from June 1, subject to all premises being made COVID-secure, as well as car showrooms, which often have significant outdoor space and where it is generally easier to apply social distancing.”

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He went on to highlight when other retail shops may open: “Then, from 15 June, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail, ranging from department stores to small, independent shops, to reopen.

“Again, this change will be contingent upon progress against the five tests and will only be permitted for those retail premises which are COVID-secure.”

This is undoubtedly good news and consumers across the UK have earned their right to enjoy some retail therapy after so much stress.

However, it’s now been suggested it would also be a shame to see some of the money the population has collectively saved during this period spent without consideration.

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Adam Bullock, the UK Director of TopCashback UK, has called for people who show a little bit of restraint as the high-street reopens.

He exclusively told Express.co.uk: “As lockdown eases and shops start to re-open, it’s natural to want to return to our way of life as we knew it.

“For many, splurging in person (especially with the rumours of huge sales) could be too tempting to miss.

“Whilst going to the shops may feel novel and possibly therapeutic, it’s important to try to spend mindfully.

“If you’re lucky enough to have saved anything during lockdown, this needn’t get blown in one go.

“Of course it’s vital to help the economy recover, but remember we do not know how long the situation will last for.”

There are digital tools available which can help people make sure they keep track of their income and outgoings, as Adam explained: “If you set clear spending budgets by using apps (such as Money Dashboard) you’ll be able to track your finances and manage your monthly outgoings carefully.

“Other personal finance apps like Chip and Emma can also be brilliant for helping you save money subconsciously.”

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Economists Have Biggest Miss Ever in U.S. Jobs-Report Shocker

In this article

How did economists bungle this one so badly?

The monthly U.S. jobs report can often surprise relative to projections, but forecasts have never been so spectacularly wrong as they were for May’s data out Friday, raising the question of why this miss was so wide.

A record 2.5 million workers were added by employers during the month, compared with a median projection for a loss of 7.5 million jobs. Of the 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the most optimistic forecast called for an 800,000 decline. Their estimates also expected the unemployment rate to approach 20% — the highest since the Great Depression in the 1930s — when in fact it declined to 13.3%.

Playing a huge role in economists’ forecasts were floods of applications for jobless insurance and tens of millions of Americans still on benefit rolls — the extent of which the nation has never experienced in such a short timespan. Moreover, economists’ models probably failed to fully take into account the government’s relief response, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program that provides firms funding to keep workers on staff.

“High frequency data — including mobility stats and small business openings — have been pointing to a trough in economic activity since mid-April,” Jefferies economists Aneta Markowska and Thomas Simons said in a note to clients. “Jobless claims did not fit with that picture, suggesting there was no positive follow-through to the labor market. We now know that claims were wrong. The May employment report was rock solid, with broad-based gains across many industries.”

Before this year, the biggest single-month miss on the payrolls report was 318,000 in February 2003, according to Bloomberg survey data going back to 1996.

The sudden nature of the downturn is putting a premium on real-time data to help produce more in-the-ballpark estimates for economic data.

Read more on the jobs report:

  • U.S. Hiring Rebounds, Defying Forecasts for Surge in Joblessness
  • Trump Takes Credit for Shock Job Gain, Reasserting His 2020 Case
  • More State, City Jobs Lost in Two Months Than During Recession
  • These U.S. Industries Hired Most and Least in May: Graphic

“No data set that economists are using has this kind of black swan event available to them,” said David Gilbertson, vice president of strategy and operations at Kronos, a software and services company that tracks time-clock punches from clients that represent about 3.2 million U.S. workers. “There’s nothing in this data that gives an indication of what happens in an economy when this many jobs are lost this quickly. There’s nothing in their models to indicate what’s going to happen.”

Kronos’s own data showed a bounce-back in hourly workers, particularly retail, leisure, and manufacturing jobs, starting in mid-April.

Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, acknowledged the difference between this economic downturn, which is sharp and swift due to Covid-19 pandemic-related shutdowns, and others in the post-World War II era. The May numbers are encouraging, but at the same time, the jobless rate remains elevated and it will take time to get back to a pre-virus labor market, he said.

“It’s a very, very different animal — this recession — than prior recessions, and these types of surprises are likely to continue to occur because we’ve never been in this type of sudden hole in terms of economic activity,” Daco said. Forecasters “have to remain humble in the face of all the tremendous uncertainty.”

Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp., pointed to the 1.4 million jobs added in the restaurant industry and said, “maybe this is an indication that PPP is working and it’s being distributed to small businesses — restaurants — and they’re using it to bring workers back.”

Forecast Challenges

The difficulty of economic forecasting amid sweeping change has been cited by the Trump administration. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said repeatedly that the unprecedented situation makes it hard to predict where the economy has headed. The White House has canceled plans to release updated economic projections this summer for that reason.

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, plans to proceed with issuing its regular quarterly forecasts next week, after skipping them in March when the pandemic was starting to rattle the economy.

On the jobs figures, one thing seems clear: it’s more difficult to get a real-time handle on hiring than on firing, especially when layoffs are temporary.

Another issue is that some workers are being counted on payrolls even if their hours or pay are minimal, said Betsey Stevenson, a University of Michigan economist who was the U.S. Labor Department’s chief economist in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession.

“The problem is that Wall Street is used to predicting job loss due to a typical recession, not one in which people are temporarily sent home en masse,” Stevenson said.

— With assistance by Chris Middleton, and Saleha Mohsin

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Bears Thwarted Again by Stock Market That Believes in Recovery

In this article

One day, maybe, it will end up being true that it was a bad idea to plow money into retailers and cruise lines whose existence was under threat by the coronavirus. Right now, that case is in deep trouble, as the market rallies with each new sign of economic recovery.

It’s a moment of reckoning for bears who never stopped sounding alarms about putting faith in the Federal Reserve and chasing shares whose valuations swelled to a 20-year high. Friday’s jobs report suggests equity resilience reflects not just central bank liquidity, but asset prices that correctly anticipated a quicker turnaround than everyone else.

“The market has a pretty good record on calling the direction on things. When you combine that with some basic economic signals, the market is a lot closer to right than a lot of the prognosticators,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. “There’s a lot of talk about how Wall Street and Main Street are disconnected, but at the same time Wall Street depends on Main Street.”

One group whose acumen is being affirmed is individual investors, whose historical reputation for poor market timing is being rehabilitated. Discount brokerages like Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade saw record new accounts opened and trading volume in the first part of the year, trends that evoked dread among professionals and are now looking almost perfectly prescient.

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“I had thought the market was ahead of itself in April and May and the real economy was doing much worse than the market would suggest,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance. “Now that it’s clear the economy actually is on the mend, I’m pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a disconnect.”

Companies hit hardest by the lockdown soared again Friday after a broad gauge of payrolls rose by 2.5 million in May, igniting stock-market bets that the worst is over for the economy. A Goldman Sachs basket of companies with shaky finances jumped 9.8% for the best week on record relative to the market. Hertz Global, a car renter that just filed for bankruptcy, has now more than tripled over two days.

The recovery trade went into overdrive following the Labor Department’s report, amplifying gains that built all week as traders shifted out of stay-at-home tech megacaps and health-care to embrace financial, energy and transport companies. The speed of the gains are impressive: an index tracking airlines was up 37 % over the week while banks jumped 17%.

“This rotation feels like it’s coming more because the economic data is showing us reason to be optimistic. This week was a big week for that case,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist for Nuveen. “Even if the economy can’t fire on all cylinders yet, it’s ready to go.”

Stocks rose for a third week, with the Nasdaq 100 Index and the Nasdaq Composite Index both erasing bear-market losses to climb to an intraday all-time high. The S&P 500 advanced 4.9% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed almost 7%. Both scored their best week in two months.

The worse a company’s finances, the better it did this week. A basket of firms with the highest risk of default rose 12% through Thursday, nine percentage points more than firms with better credit health, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Since bottoming in March, those stocks with riskier finances have beaten their more stable peers by 30 percentage points.

Gains are being sustained by speculation that the corporations whose finances put them most at risk will thrive as the economy improves. Also aiding the stocks is an increase in investor demand for shares trading at lower valuations.

“I can see them making a shift, saying, ‘Ok, equities still represent good return potential but maybe it’s a better risk-reward to go with the lesser valued sectors and names,” Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management, said by phone. “I can see them shifting from stocks where the P/E has already inflated to stocks where the P/E hasn’t inflated that much.”

That’s a playbook that exchange-traded fund investors followed, dumping tech darlings in favor of laggards such as banks and small-caps. In the past week, they flocked to funds focused on small caps and financial firms, while pulling cash out of large-cap technology. The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund, ticker XLF, took in roughly $875 million this week. Investors poured $900 million into the iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF, ticker IJR, on Thursday alone, the most in two years. Meanwhile, the Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1, QQQ, lost $2.3 billion this week, the most since Oct. 2018.

The end result of such rotation: a market whose technicals look healthier, instead of a lopsided one driven by a handful of tech giants. An equal-weight version of the S&P 500 that gives Coty Inc. just as much clout as Microsoft Corp. rose 9.6% this week, doubling the returns of the regular market-cap weighted benchmark for the best relative return in two decades.

“A lot of this is really, ‘Hey, I think we’re going to get going back to work, so I’m going to buy some of these stocks that I think will benefit if spending starts pretty quickly,’” said JJ Kinahan, the chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “There’s been the optimism trade for the last few weeks, that we would get going faster than people expected.”

— With assistance by Sarah Ponczek, and Katherine Greifeld

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Corporate America’s plan to fight racial injustice: form a committee

Corporate America plans to fight for racial equality and justice by forming a committee, the nation’s largest business lobby announced on Friday.

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The Business Roundtable’s effort arrives amid a rash of corporate statements in support of the nationwide protests demanding an end to systemic racism following the police killing of George Floyd.

The statements have been met with skepticism because of the long history of big business perpetuating racism by paying low wages, failing to promote people of color and campaigning against unions.

Walmart’s chairman and chief executive, Doug McMillon, is chairman of the Business Roundtable, and said customers, employees and communities were looking for businesses “to act now”. 

“Having spoken to many CEOs of America’s leading businesses, I know they share my conviction that this is a time to act to address racial inequality,” McMillon said in a statement. “The pain our country is feeling should be turned into real change.

“Business Roundtable CEOs do not have all of the answers,” he said. “But we are committed to doing our part to listen, learn and to use our collective influence and scale to advance racial justice and equal opportunity for all Americans.” 

This commitment comes at a critical time for black Americans. In the midst of an economic crisis prompted by public health lockdowns, black people are losing work at higher rates than white people and dying of Covid-19 at higher rates. 

There is compelling evidence that systemic racism could be curbed by boosting wages, ending discriminatory banking and increasing access to affordable healthcare. 

The Business Roundtable is well-placed to address these issues. Its chief executive members lead companies with more than 15 million employees and $7.5tn in revenue. 

For now, the lobby said in a press release it would focus on corporate initiatives and public policies which target education and training programs, healthcare, finance and criminal justice.

The committee includes the chief executives of General Motors, JP Morgan and Johnson & Johnson. 

Two of the seven committee members named in its press release are black men – the chief executive of power conglomerate Eaton, Craig Arnold, and the chief executive of Vista Equity Partners, billionaire Robert Smith. There are no black women on the committee. 

The racial makeup of the committee reflects a broader problem in corporate America. This year’s Fortune 500 list, a snapshot profile of the country’s largest companies, did not include one company run by a black woman. Only four black male CEOs are listed in the index. 

Corporate giants have waded into the national unrest to show solidarity and promote their efforts to ensure racial equality. But the comments have rung hollow to advocates for fair wages and workplace diversity.

On Thursday, Uber emailed customers to say it “stands with the black community”, and donated $1m to the Equal Justice Initiative and Center for Policing Equity, among other initiatives. In 2019, 9.3% of the company’s corporate staff were black and 8.3% Latino. 

Amazon said it stood in solidarity in the fight against systemic racism, but has been assailed by workers alleging poor treatment during the pandemic.

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US economy added 2.5 million jobs in May

New York (CNN Business)When the May jobs report dropped Friday morning, the numbers were shocking: US unemployment actually fell, defying virtually all economists’ predictions.

How did they get it so wrong?

The forecast

    Economists were expecting the jobs report to show May was yet another horrendous month for workers. Those surveyed by Refinitiv had predicted another 8 million job losses and an unemployment rate nearing 20%. Journalists, reporting on economists’ forecasts, had prepared charts ready to show the unemployment rate at its highest level since the Great Depression.

    The reality

    Instead, unemployment suddenly fell in May as employers added 2.5 million jobs. It was the best month for job growth since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the data in 1939. And employment increased for white, black and Latino workers. Both women and men reported job gains and re-entered the labor force.
    Although the job market remains far weaker than it was before the pandemic, the data seem to show it has at least stopped getting worse. And that’s good news, indeed.
    Stocks soared on the news and President Trump fired off a series of tweets in celebration, calling the numbers “stupendous,” “AMAZING” and “INCREDIBLE.”

    How could economists have had it so wrong?

    Like everyone else, they are in uncharted territory, trying to forecast the economic impact of the pandemic. Other recent indicators, such as initial unemployment claims, continued to show millions of Americans filed for unemployment benefits each week in May. And just two days ago, a report by ADP, one of the largest payroll processing companies in the country, showed the private sector lost 2.8 million jobs in May.
    It’s a “mystery” why the monthly jobs report contradicts those other data points, Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note, calling the May report “rather startling.”
    “The biggest payroll surprise in history, by a gigantic margin, likely is due to a wave of hidden rehiring,” he said.

    Unprecedented job losses

    Economists’ models often rely on past trends to predict the future. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, there simply isn’t a comparable moment in history to use as a guide. They’re learning as they go.
    Some have recently tried to expand beyond the traditional economic indicators watched by Wall Street, incorporating high-frequency data sets from tech companies into their forecasting models. During the pandemic, they’ve been monitoring things like Google mobility data, Google searches for “unemployment”, OpenTable bookings to reflect the health of the restaurant sector and labor hours tracked by work scheduling software Homebase.

    The recovery might have started way earlier than we thought

    Aneta Markowska and Thomas Simons, economists from Jefferies, note that some of those high-frequency data sets pointed to a low point in economic activity in mid April, showing a gradual recovery since then.
    “Jobless claims did not fit with that picture,” they said. “We now know that claims were wrong.”

    Noisy data

    One possibility is that many people who were laid off during the pandemic didn’t file for unemployment benefits, perhaps because they thought they wouldn’t qualify — whereas others were caught up in long processing backlogs. This could explain why the correlation between heightened jobless claims and the data in the jobs report didn’t line up.
    The jobs report comes from surveys of households and businesses reflecting the second week in May, and by then, most states had started to loosen stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, funds from the government’s Payroll Protection Plan may have helped many small businesses bring back furloughed workers. The jobs report showed restaurants and bars were the biggest job creators in May, bringing back 1.37 million jobs.

    The bottom line

    Unexpected job gains in May are, of course, welcome news. But even so, the job losses incurred during the pandemic are so devastating, the US economy is far from a full recovery.

      At 13.3%, the unemployment rate remains near historic highs, and employers have yet to add back 19.6 million jobs lost since February. Job losses of that magnitude are so severe, they’re more than double the 8.7 million jobs lost following the Great Recession — and in a far shorter period.
      “We really need a new way to talk about recessions and recoveries in a post-Covid world,” Diane Swonk, chief economist for Grant Thornton, said in a research note. “Calling May the end of the recession really does a disservice to the more than 19 million still unemployed and the extraordinary challenges we face as the economy struggles to reopen with the rate of infection still high.”
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      Massive spike in foreign flows into market

      Foreign portfolio investors have bought shares worth ₹20,814 crore in just five trading sessions in June.

      In just under a week in June, the quantum of foreign flows in the equity market has surpassed that of any other month in the current calendar year.

      Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) have bought shares worth nearly ₹21,000 crore — ₹20,814 crore to be precise — in just five trading sessions in the current month. This is the highest in any month of 2020, with the previous high registered in May at ₹14,569 crore.

      Market participants are of the view that the sudden surge has been on account of the Rights Issue of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), stake sale in Kotak Mahindra Bank, and the slight uptick in optimism even as pandemic concerns continue to linger.

      “These two corporate events saw major participation by FPIs,” said Arjun Yash Mahajan, head, Institutional Business, Reliance Securities, while referring to RIL’s Rights Issue, and Uday Kotak selling 2.83% stake in Kotak Mahindra Bank.

      “Add to these two events, the broader benchmark Nifty saw a breakout and added over 4.5% since the close on 29 May. The current rally has seen money flow into sectors like automobiles, private banks and pharmaceuticals as there was continued hope of the worst being behind,” added Mr. Mahajan.

       

      RIL’s Rights Issue — the country’s largest at ₹53,124.20 crore — closed on June 3 and was subscribed 1.59 times with many foreign institutional investors putting in significant bids.

      On Tuesday, Uday Kotak sold shares worth around ₹6,800 crore of Kotak Mahindra Bank, which were bought by FPIs like the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, T. Rowe Price, Aberdeen Asset Management, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Oppenheimer Developing Market Fund, among others.

      The cumulative foreign flows in equities this year however, is still negative at ₹19,531 crore, since March and April saw huge outflows.

      Incidentally, March witnessed a record outflow of ₹61,973 crore, which was followed by selling worth ₹6,884 crore in April.

      According to Mr. Mahajan, while the current rally is based on optimism, investors need to be cautious and can even look at booking some profits and wait for better entry levels amidst the coronavirus pandemic-led disruptions caused in April and May.

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      States Have Put 54 New Restrictions On Peaceful Protests Since Ferguson

      The historic wave of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd has spurred a new debate over the legitimacy of political violence as some demonstrators have turned to vandalism, looting and setting fires in defiance of police brutality and racism. 

      But as last Friday’s demonstrations kicked off in Minneapolis ― where Floyd, a Black man, was killed by police officers ― Louisiana lawmakers some 2,500 miles south voted overwhelmingly to pass harsh new legislation cracking down on peaceful protests. The bill set a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence with hard labor for protesters convicted of trespassing on fossil fuel and other infrastructure sites during a state of emergency like the one declared amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

      The legislation had actually been months in the making, and it’s hardly a one-off. Since 2015 ― in the wake of protests set off by the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri ― states have introduced at least 154 bills or executive orders to restrict peaceful protest, according to a HuffPost analysis of the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law’s tally, a new report from PEN America, and interviews with free speech experts. So far, 54 have become law. More than two dozen ― including the Louisiana measure, which is awaiting the governor’s signature ― are pending.

      These new restrictions on peaceful protest are not directly linked to an uptick in less-peaceful tactics over the past week. In fact, many of the current protesters have condemned actions like brick-throwing and looting, blaming the worst offenses on agitators who don’t share their anti-racist goals.

      But a number of the largest U.S. cities where nightly protests are taking place have put curfews in place, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. Researchers warn that the proliferation of new restrictions could push future protesters to embrace more combative tactics as the legal risks of peaceful gatherings rise. 

      “There’s a multiplier effect,” said Dana Fisher, a sociologist who studies protest movements at the University of Maryland, College Park. “If people don’t think they’re allowed to peacefully protest, they’re going to be prepared for more confrontational protest.” 

      Pipeline Protections

      Of the 22 anti-protest laws passed over the last four years, 12 designated fossil fuel sites as “critical infrastructure” and ramped up penalties for trespassing or tampering with the equipment there. The statutes, promoted in state legislatures by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council following the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, typically elevated low-level misdemeanor charges to felonies with thousands of dollars in fines and prison time. 

      Louisiana adopted such a statute in 2018. Last week, lawmakers expanded on the measure, adding the mandatory minimum sentencing provision that could send peaceful protesters to prison for standing near any of Louisiana’s 125,000 miles of pipeline, much of which is buried and therefore difficult to avoid when planning demonstrations. 

      While the Louisiana bill proposes some of the most inflexible penalties, more than half a dozen other states enacted similar legislation in just the past two years. Three states ― Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia ― passed new laws restricting fossil fuel protests in March, as the country went into lockdown over the pandemic. Alabama lawmakers advanced their bill in May, but failed to pass it before the legislative session ended. 

      So-called “critical infrastructure” bills have passed more easily than other protest restrictions because big companies, particularly oil giants, have deployed their expansive lobbying networks to back the measures. 

      New Penalties And Definitions For Riots

      More than a dozen states have proposed new bills to discourage riots, though the legislation was most successful in the Dakotas, where heated pipeline protests are recent events that seem likely to repeat. 

      In 2017, North Dakota increased the charges for participating in a riot. It was previously a Class A misdemeanor, which was punishable by up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Under the newer law, joining a riot with more than 100 people is a Class B felony, subject to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. 

      South Dakota has become a hotbed for anti-protest legislation, particularly since Gov. Kristi Noem (R) took office last year. Over the course of three days in March 2019, the state legislature passed a law criminalizing “riot boosting,” setting forth harsh penalties for those who encourage acts of “force or violence” but do not take part themselves. The American Civil Liberties Union sued to block the law, and state officials dialed back the measure as part of a settlement. 

      Then this March, South Dakota enacted new measures expanding the definition of a felony “riot” to “intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons” that causes “any damage to property.” The law covers those who “urge” a riot, which it defines as “instigating, inciting, or directing” but excluding “oral or written advocacy of ideas or expression of belief that does not urge … imminent force or violence.”

      It took less than a month in early 2018 for West Virginia to enact a law extending protections for police officers to the state’s Capitol Police when they kill or wound anyone present, “spectator or otherwise,” while dispersing a riot. 

      Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said the statute was known among lawyers and advocates as the “shoot-a-teacher law” because it was passed amid the West Virginia’s teachers strike.

      Protesters Can’t Block Traffic, But Drivers Can Hit Them

      Seven states proposed, but ultimately failed to pass, legislation limiting liability for drivers who hit or run over protesters who are blocking streets. In addition to protecting drivers, those bills and more than a dozen other proposed laws sought to increase penalties for protesters who block traffic or gather without approval on private or public land. The latter measures became law in two states.

      A 2017 South Dakota law enabled the governor and sheriffs to ban gatherings of more than 20 people on public land if the gathering could damage the land or the renters’ use of that property. It also gave the state Department of Transportation the right to bar protests that interfere with highway traffic, increasing the penalties for obstructing roadways to one year behind bars and a $2,000 fine.

      That same year, Tennessee imposed new $200 fines ― plus up to 30 days in jail ― for anyone who obstructs an emergency vehicle, which it broadly defined as “any vehicle of a governmental department or public service corporation when responding to an emergency.” 

      Curbing Free Speech, Especially About Israel

      Proposed laws to punish students or universities for protests that block controversial speakers from appearing on campus are pending in six states and were defeated in another 11. 

      In 2018, Missouri banned public employees from picketing, though a federal judge blocked the law from being enforced in January 2020. 

      A Utah law enacted three months ago expanded “disorderly conduct” in the legislature or at meetings of government officials to include creating annoyance or alarm with “unreasonable noise.” The restrictions could apply to a silent protester who “refuses to comply with the lawful order of a law enforcement officer to move from a public place or an official meeting, or knowingly creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition.” The measure mandated a $750 fine for first offenses, up to three months in jail for those who had been warned to cease the prohibited conduct, and up to one year in jail for a third-time offender. 

      Between April 2015 and May 2020, 32 states enacted measures to restrict or formally condemn as anti-Semitic support for the movement to “boycott, divest and sanction” Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and non-Jewish Israelis, according to data from the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. Two dozen of those laws and executive orders bar states from granting contracts to companies or individuals who support the BDS movement. 

      In most cases, the bills seeking to restrict peaceful protest and expression are aimed at “charge stacking,” which is when prosecutors pile on the counts to pressure people into a deal.

      “When you have mass movements and a lot of people in the street, you see false arrests and heavy-duty charge stacking to get people to plead to lesser charges. … These laws are a gift to that type of prosecution,” said Verheyden-Hilliard.

      But they’re not necessary. “The crimes are already crimes, and the penalties already exist,” she said.

      The push to limit peaceful political expression overall, particularly amid the pandemic, highlights the influence of monied special interests on policymaking in the United States, said Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney at the ACLU in New York. 

      “There’s an absurdity to legislatures passing these laws right now,” she said, “when there are so many barriers to hearing from constituents as it is.” 

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      US economy added 2.5 million jobs in May

      New York (CNN Business)Members of the White House press corps became the latest political prop in President Donald Trump’s quest to reopen the country on Friday.

      The White House set up press seats for a Friday event in the Rose Garden, which was billed as a news conference, though Trump ended up taking no questions from reporters.
      The folding chairs were originally placed six feet apart, just like they have been since April, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

        News crews took photos of the set-up, then left the Rose Garden, and were brought back in several minutes later.
        Sometime in between, White House staffers clustered the chairs together much more tightly, with approximately one foot between each seated reporter.

        Visually it was back to business almost as normal, pre-pandemic, without social distancing, despite ongoing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control to take precautions.
        The president seemed to like what he saw.
        “You’re getting closer together, even you, I noticed,” Trump remarked to reporters. “I noticed you’re starting to get much closer together. Looks much better.”
        But the White House staffers set up the seats — not the White House Correspondents’ Association. Some journalists and news executives were privately outraged by the bait and switch.

        US President Donald Trump holds a press conference on the economy, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 5, 2020. - The US economy regained 2.5 million jobs in May as coronavirus pandemic shutdowns began to ease, sending the unemployment rate falling to 13.3 percent, the Labor Department reported on June 5. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
        White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said he made the decision to move the seats.
        “It was my decision. It looks better. I would remind you that those in the pool are tested, everyone is temperature checked, and asked if they have had symptoms,” he told CNN in an email.
        The event was open to other reporters who had not been tested because they were not in the pool — the small, rotating group of reporters covering the President each day. There have been many cases of asymptomatic spread nationally, and it’s possible to spread the virus before one begins exhibiting symptoms.
        The Trump administration’s own CDC guidelines maintain that social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus.
        “Limit close contact with others outside your household in indoor and outdoor spaces. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others when possible, even if you—or they—have no symptoms,” the CDC’s website said.

          It appeared that the White House was using the press corps as human props to send a message that social distancing is no longer necessary — something the President is insisting, as well, as he seeks to fill a packed arena for the Republican National Convention.
          “This is a flagrant violation of CDC guidelines on social distancing and a move that puts reporters at risk for the purpose of turning the press corps into a prop for a so-called ‘press conference’ where the president refuses to answer a single question,” WHCA president Jon Karl said in a post on Twitter.
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          Barry Diller says his firms are ditching ‘absurd’ earnings guidance

          Media magnate Barry Diller says his companies will end the “absurd” practice of giving earnings guidance to shareholders.

          The billionaire chairman of IAC and Expedia said firms are wasting the time they spend setting targets for their financial performance. The coronavirus pandemic has already led many companies to withdraw their guidance because of the economic uncertainty the crisis has created.

          “It kind of gave us the opportunity to say, you know what? Guidance is a bad business. We’re out,” Diller told CNBC on Friday. “We’re not doing it anymore, for either Expedia or for IAC.”

          “Spend your time actually figuring out where you should invest your money, how you should run your company,” he added. “Anybody who runs their company for a quarter is a bird-brain.”

          Issuing guidance is a common practice for public companies even though it’s not legally required. Proponents argue it keeps firms accountable to shareholders, CNBC reported. It’s also viewed as a way to increase a company’s stock price by boosting investors’ confidence, according to a Harvard Business Review article.

          But some business titans reportedly argue that companies can fudge guidance to make it look like they beat expectations. Skeptics of the practice include investment maven Warren Buffett, whose conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway does not issue guidance.

          “It keeps companies accountable? It keeps companies doing dumbass work,” Diller told CNBC.

          “Companies spend too much time massaging the process, getting the model right, so that they can always beat, not miss, expectations, and the markets are always reactionary on that wildly short-term dumbness of what happened in the next quarter,” he added.

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