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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 39)

‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried.

Westlake Legal Group 15DC-TOYS-sub-facebookJumbo ‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Toys International Trade and World Market Customs (Tariff) China

WASHINGTON — Toymakers breathed a little easier this week when President Trump announced plans to delay tariffs on many goods from China — but their relief may not last long.

The delay pushes a new 10 percent tariff on some Chinese imports to December from September, and allows companies and retailers to avoid paying an additional tax on the goods they’re bringing into the United States for the all-important holiday shopping season. Yet toymakers are already looking ahead to next year’s holiday season, and fretting about the crippling uncertainty that the president’s on-again, off-again trade policy has created for them.

“Everybody is just on this roller coaster, trying to stay one step ahead or keep up with this inconsistent, irrational trade policy that is coming out of the White House,” said Jay Foreman, the chief executive of Basic Fun, which manufactures toys like Lite-Brite, K’nex building sets and Lincoln Logs, the vast majority of which are made in China. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have urged business leaders to stay focused on the larger picture: that the administration is trying to secure a historic trade deal with China. They say that China has gamed economic rules for decades, leading to the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, and that the United States must do what it can to change the behavior now.

After months of negotiations, however, the United States and China appear no closer to a deal. On Thursday, an official from China’s State Council Tariff Commission said China would be taking “the necessary countermeasures” to respond to Mr. Trump’s next tariffs.

Meanwhile, the pain of the tariffs is being felt by American consumers and businesses, and forcing companies, where they can, to reconfigure their global supply chains.

Some companies are moving factories out of China to countries like Vietnam and India to avoid being hit by the tariffs. But that strategy also introduces risks for an industry, focused on children, that depends on carefully controlled facilities and strict health and safety standards.

Mr. Trump’s latest round of tariffs would have affected nearly $300 billion of Chinese products as of Sept. 1, on top of a 25 percent tariff that is already in place on roughly $250 billion of goods.

Instead, tariffs on about $160 billion of consumer products, including toys, shoes, apparel, laptops and mobile phones, will be delayed until Dec. 15, while tariffs on a few items will be canceled altogether.

The move does not appear to be a response to any concessions by China in the trade negotiations. “We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday.

“Obviously, toys are a sympathetic product,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the United States trade representative in the Obama administration who is now a policy analyst for Farmers for Free Trade, an anti-tariff advocacy group. “I think it’s an admission that it would be politically unpopular to see price increases during the holiday season.”

Toymakers both large and small say they don’t have the ability to absorb cost increases, and would have to almost immediately raise prices. The typical toy in the United States retails for only $10, and profit margins for some of them may be just pennies on the dollar, according to the Toy Association, an industry group.

Mr. Foreman, who sources 92 percent of his products from China, said that if tariffs had gone into effect as planned, they would have eaten up two-thirds or more of his profit for the year.

But the company must now decide whether to try to speed up product shipments to beat the new tariff date in December. That could save money, but will tie up capital and will crowd distribution warehouses with products. For many companies, the large outlays and disappearing profit margins risk throwing lending covenants with banks out of whack.

“It just causes chaos from the top to the bottom of the whole business model,” Mr. Foreman said.

Moving operations out of China to lower-cost countries without tariffs may not eliminate the issue, either. Mr. Trump has threatened tariffs on Mexico, for example, to try to get the country to do more to restrain migrants. The administration has also weighed tariffs on Vietnam because of that country’s rising exports to the United States.

Hasbro, which is based in Rhode Island and makes Nerf, Transformers, Play-Doh and Disney Princess merchandise, said last month that it would aim to produce just half of the goods it sells in the American market in China by the end of 2020. It currently makes about two-thirds there. Much of that production will go to India and Vietnam.

Hasbro has said that it must make this shift slowly. At a hearing on the tariffs in Washington in June, John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief operating officer, said that suppliers in China had been trained to meet strict American product safety standards, and that there was no readily available alternate supply chain outside the country.

China’s factories have not always had the best reputation. The country has faced scandals over toxic infant formula, dog food, drywall and other products. In 2007, Mattel was forced to recall nearly one million toys that had been covered in lead paint by a contract manufacturer in China.

But China’s stature as a supplier has improved. International companies have carefully policed supply chains, and turned to external auditors to ensure rules are followed. China has set up test labs that ensure that exported toys — many of which will wind up in children’s mouths, whether they’re supposed to or not — meet rigorous American and European safety standards.

“What we see in terms of standards is that China is way above countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam,” said Sebastien Breteau, the chief executive of QIMA, which audits supply chains for some of the largest retailers and clothing brands in the United States.

Mr. Breteau said his company found many more instances of child labor, human trafficking, environmental violations and dangerous conditions for workers in Southeast Asia.

These violations often happen not at the factories of major companies but at the partner factories they contract with. When companies are trying to quickly relocate supply chains to get ahead of tariffs — and compete for factory space — these risks can be magnified, Mr. Breteau said.

The Toy Association, which represents Hasbro, Mattel and Lego, as well as small toymakers, said any moves in company supply chains were being done in a measured way, to make sure the same strict safety standards are followed.

“We built this business with China over the last four or five decades,” said Steve Pasierb, the president of the association. “It’s going to take a decade to move.”

China’s wages are gradually rising, making it less attractive for companies looking to get labor-intensive work, like sewing clothes or assembling electronics, done inexpensively. But companies say China’s position as a factory to the world for so many products has given the country an important advantage.

It remains a one-stop shop for many manufacturers. Whether companies need a plastic doll shoe or a computer chip, it can most likely be sourced within 50 miles of a Chinese factory.

Although the administration’s aim is to bring manufacturing back to the United States, toymakers say that isn’t realistic for many low-margin products.

Jim Barber, the owner of Luke’s Toy Factory, which makes eco-friendly trucks for toddlers in Danbury, Conn., said he would like to sell to more lower-income people in the United States, but he realizes that his market is the consumers who can afford to spend money to get what they want, not the majority of people for whom price is the paramount issue.

“You can go to any consumer survey you want and they say, ‘Yes, I’d be willing to pay more for an American-made toy,’” Mr. Barber said. “It’s a complete lie. You talk to any retailer and they’ll tell you that’s not true.”

“Price is what sells toys,” he added. “Price and Batman.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried.

Westlake Legal Group 15DC-TOYS-sub-facebookJumbo ‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Toys International Trade and World Market Customs (Tariff) China

WASHINGTON — Toymakers breathed a little easier this week when President Trump announced plans to delay tariffs on many goods from China — but their relief may not last long.

The delay pushes a new 10 percent tariff on some Chinese imports to December from September, and allows companies and retailers to avoid paying an additional tax on the goods they’re bringing into the United States for the all-important holiday shopping season. Yet toymakers are already looking ahead to next year’s holiday season, and fretting about the crippling uncertainty that the president’s on-again, off-again trade policy has created for them.

“Everybody is just on this roller coaster, trying to stay one step ahead or keep up with this inconsistent, irrational trade policy that is coming out of the White House,” said Jay Foreman, the chief executive of Basic Fun, which manufactures toys like Lite-Brite, K’nex building sets and Lincoln Logs, the vast majority of which are made in China. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have urged business leaders to stay focused on the larger picture: that the administration is trying to secure a historic trade deal with China. They say that China has gamed economic rules for decades, leading to the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, and that the United States must do what it can to change the behavior now.

After months of negotiations, however, the United States and China appear no closer to a deal. On Thursday, an official from China’s State Council Tariff Commission said China would be taking “the necessary countermeasures” to respond to Mr. Trump’s next tariffs.

Meanwhile, the pain of the tariffs is being felt by American consumers and businesses, and forcing companies, where they can, to reconfigure their global supply chains.

Some companies are moving factories out of China to countries like Vietnam and India to avoid being hit by the tariffs. But that strategy also introduces risks for an industry, focused on children, that depends on carefully controlled facilities and strict health and safety standards.

Mr. Trump’s latest round of tariffs would have affected nearly $300 billion of Chinese products as of Sept. 1, on top of a 25 percent tariff that is already in place on roughly $250 billion of goods.

Instead, tariffs on about $160 billion of consumer products, including toys, shoes, apparel, laptops and mobile phones, will be delayed until Dec. 15, while tariffs on a few items will be canceled altogether.

The move does not appear to be a response to any concessions by China in the trade negotiations. “We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday.

“Obviously, toys are a sympathetic product,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the United States trade representative in the Obama administration who is now a policy analyst for Farmers for Free Trade, an anti-tariff advocacy group. “I think it’s an admission that it would be politically unpopular to see price increases during the holiday season.”

Toymakers both large and small say they don’t have the ability to absorb cost increases, and would have to almost immediately raise prices. The typical toy in the United States retails for only $10, and profit margins for some of them may be just pennies on the dollar, according to the Toy Association, an industry group.

Mr. Foreman, who sources 92 percent of his products from China, said that if tariffs had gone into effect as planned, they would have eaten up two-thirds or more of his profit for the year.

But the company must now decide whether to try to speed up product shipments to beat the new tariff date in December. That could save money, but will tie up capital and will crowd distribution warehouses with products. For many companies, the large outlays and disappearing profit margins risk throwing lending covenants with banks out of whack.

“It just causes chaos from the top to the bottom of the whole business model,” Mr. Foreman said.

Moving operations out of China to lower-cost countries without tariffs may not eliminate the issue, either. Mr. Trump has threatened tariffs on Mexico, for example, to try to get the country to do more to restrain migrants. The administration has also weighed tariffs on Vietnam because of that country’s rising exports to the United States.

Hasbro, which is based in Rhode Island and makes Nerf, Transformers, Play-Doh and Disney Princess merchandise, said last month that it would aim to produce just half of the goods it sells in the American market in China by the end of 2020. It currently makes about two-thirds there. Much of that production will go to India and Vietnam.

Hasbro has said that it must make this shift slowly. At a hearing on the tariffs in Washington in June, John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief operating officer, said that suppliers in China had been trained to meet strict American product safety standards, and that there was no readily available alternate supply chain outside the country.

China’s factories have not always had the best reputation. The country has faced scandals over toxic infant formula, dog food, drywall and other products. In 2007, Mattel was forced to recall nearly one million toys that had been covered in lead paint by a contract manufacturer in China.

But China’s stature as a supplier has improved. International companies have carefully policed supply chains, and turned to external auditors to ensure rules are followed. China has set up test labs that ensure that exported toys — many of which will wind up in children’s mouths, whether they’re supposed to or not — meet rigorous American and European safety standards.

“What we see in terms of standards is that China is way above countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam,” said Sebastien Breteau, the chief executive of QIMA, which audits supply chains for some of the largest retailers and clothing brands in the United States.

Mr. Breteau said his company found many more instances of child labor, human trafficking, environmental violations and dangerous conditions for workers in Southeast Asia.

These violations often happen not at the factories of major companies but at the partner factories they contract with. When companies are trying to quickly relocate supply chains to get ahead of tariffs — and compete for factory space — these risks can be magnified, Mr. Breteau said.

The Toy Association, which represents Hasbro, Mattel and Lego, as well as small toymakers, said any moves in company supply chains were being done in a measured way, to make sure the same strict safety standards are followed.

“We built this business with China over the last four or five decades,” said Steve Pasierb, the president of the association. “It’s going to take a decade to move.”

China’s wages are gradually rising, making it less attractive for companies looking to get labor-intensive work, like sewing clothes or assembling electronics, done inexpensively. But companies say China’s position as a factory to the world for so many products has given the country an important advantage.

It remains a one-stop shop for many manufacturers. Whether companies need a plastic doll shoe or a computer chip, it can most likely be sourced within 50 miles of a Chinese factory.

Although the administration’s aim is to bring manufacturing back to the United States, toymakers say that isn’t realistic for many low-margin products.

Jim Barber, the owner of Luke’s Toy Factory, which makes eco-friendly trucks for toddlers in Danbury, Conn., said he would like to sell to more lower-income people in the United States, but he realizes that his market is the consumers who can afford to spend money to get what they want, not the majority of people for whom price is the paramount issue.

“You can go to any consumer survey you want and they say, ‘Yes, I’d be willing to pay more for an American-made toy,’” Mr. Barber said. “It’s a complete lie. You talk to any retailer and they’ll tell you that’s not true.”

“Price is what sells toys,” he added. “Price and Batman.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alibaba’s Strong Results Suggest Chinese Consumers Are Still Spending

Westlake Legal Group 15alibaba-facebookJumbo Alibaba’s Strong Results Suggest Chinese Consumers Are Still Spending Shopping and Retail International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends E-Commerce Consumer Behavior Company Reports China Alibaba Group Holding Ltd

BEIJING — The Chinese consumer isn’t dead yet.

So says Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which on Thursday reported strong financial results for the three months that ended in June, despite China’s slowing economic growth and a trade war with the United States that has hit the country’s factories.

The results, from a company that symbolizes the rising confidence of the Chinese consumer, suggest a mixed picture for the world’s second-largest economy after the United States. Just the day before, the country reported its worst monthly figures for industrial output in 17 years. Exports have fallen, though they rose unexpectedly in July, and the country’s factories are having a harder time charging higher prices for the goods they turn out.

But Alibaba’s results point to strengths. Though the pace of growth has slowed, Alibaba is still adding customers. China’s overall retail sales growth, while also slowing, is still strong compared with that of other countries.

“The question that is invariably asked is: How does Alibaba’s business, which is consumption-driven, continue to deliver robust growth despite challenges in the broader economy?” an Alibaba co-founder, Joseph Tsai, said in a conference call.

“I want to offer two reasons. Both are big secular trends that are happening in China that we have taken advantage of. First is demographics, and the second is the rapid pace of digitization.”

China’s $5.5 trillion domestic consumption market is driven by the emergence of a middle class of over 300 million people living in large cities as well as the rapid urbanization of the countryside, Mr. Tsai said.

The question for Alibaba — and for China’s leaders as the trade war grinds on — is how long that strength will last and whether it will be enough to blunt other headwinds.

Alibaba said on Thursday that revenue rose 42 percent, to $16.7 billion. Its net profit more than doubled to $3.1 billion from a year earlier, when costs involving employee compensation sharply reduced the bottom line. The company’s shares, which trade in New York, rose about 3 percent in early trading.

Alibaba’s earnings were consistent with retail sales in China that showed shoppers continued to spend. According to official statistics, retail sales rose 8.3 percent in the first seven months of the year compared with a year earlier, though July retail sales were up 7.6 percent, missing estimates.

“Confidence has improved somewhat,” said Wang Tao, chief China economist for UBS. “Late last year, there was a wall of uncertainty.”

Ms. Wang cited a survey of 3,000 consumers that UBS conducted in May that showed consumers were still buying because they said their salaries had increased and their property wealth had risen. “In general, the trade war has not had a big impact on the labor market,” she said.

It is not clear how long that will last. Ms. Wang said she believes the tariffs could still add to economic uncertainties and that it could slow growth.

But e-commerce remains an area where shoppers seem to be still optimistic. Case in point: Alibaba’s closest rival, JD.com. On Tuesday, the company posted a profit of $90.1 million, compared to a net loss of $310 million a year ago.

Alibaba’s strong result did not come just from consumer growth. The company, which provides digital marketplaces in which retailers set up virtual shops to sell their wares, said its strong results came in part from improved algorithms that better connected buyers and sellers.

It also saw strong sales growth from the commissions it charges retailers for using its services, in another positive sign. As China’s economic news turned markedly gloomier toward the end of last year, Alibaba executives said that the company would delay charging merchants higher rates for placing ads on its digital shopping sites.

The company also added customers at a slowing but still healthy clip. In the last quarter, the number of annual active consumers rose by one-sixth, to 674 million. That was a slower pace than the increase from a year before but still showed interest by consumers wanting to buy goods online.

Alibaba may have also benefited from shifts in what Chinese consumers want to buy. Analysts say the trade war with the United States has prompted shoppers to become more selective, and many have switched to buying domestic brands that they feel are of high quality.

“There’s definitely a ‘China for China’ trend that’s happening right now, meaning people shifting toward domestic brands,” said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research, a consultancy based in Shanghai.

Even though Alibaba makes nearly all of its money in China, the company’s shares have swung wildly this year as the trade war has continued on its roller-coaster course. Since talks between Washington and Beijing hit an impasse in May, Alibaba shares have lost around 15 percent of their value.

Alibaba is considering a second share listing in Hong Kong. That would allow mainland Chinese investors to invest more easily in the company and give it a backup source of funding in case Washington decides to curb Chinese businesses’ access to Wall Street.

The company received an unwelcome bit of publicity last week when Malaysia filed criminal charges against several people, including Alibaba’s president, Michael Evans, a former Goldman Sachs executive, in connection with a multibillion-dollar fraud scandal. Alibaba said at the time that it was monitoring the situation.

Mr. Tsai and other executives did not comment on the accusations on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried.

Westlake Legal Group 15DC-TOYS-sub-facebookJumbo ‘It’s Just a Nightmare.’ Despite Tariff Delay, Toy Makers Are Worried. United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Toys International Trade and World Market Customs (Tariff) China

WASHINGTON — Toymakers breathed a little easier this week when President Trump announced plans to delay tariffs on many goods from China — but their relief may not last long.

The delay pushes a new 10 percent tariff on some Chinese imports to December from September, and allows companies and retailers to avoid paying an additional tax on the goods they’re bringing into the United States for the all-important holiday shopping season. Yet toymakers are already looking ahead to next year’s holiday season, and fretting about the crippling uncertainty that the president’s on-again, off-again trade policy has created for them.

“Everybody is just on this roller coaster, trying to stay one step ahead or keep up with this inconsistent, irrational trade policy that is coming out of the White House,” said Jay Foreman, the chief executive of Basic Fun, which manufactures toys like Lite-Brite, K’nex building sets and Lincoln Logs, the vast majority of which are made in China. “It’s just a nightmare.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have urged business leaders to stay focused on the larger picture: that the administration is trying to secure a historic trade deal with China. They say that China has gamed economic rules for decades, leading to the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, and that the United States must do what it can to change the behavior now.

After months of negotiations, however, the United States and China appear no closer to a deal. On Thursday, an official from China’s State Council Tariff Commission said China would be taking “the necessary countermeasures” to respond to Mr. Trump’s next tariffs.

Meanwhile, the pain of the tariffs is being felt by American consumers and businesses, and forcing companies, where they can, to reconfigure their global supply chains.

Some companies are moving factories out of China to countries like Vietnam and India to avoid being hit by the tariffs. But that strategy also introduces risks for an industry, focused on children, that depends on carefully controlled facilities and strict health and safety standards.

Mr. Trump’s latest round of tariffs would have affected nearly $300 billion of Chinese products as of Sept. 1, on top of a 25 percent tariff that is already in place on roughly $250 billion of goods.

Instead, tariffs on about $160 billion of consumer products, including toys, shoes, apparel, laptops and mobile phones, will be delayed until Dec. 15, while tariffs on a few items will be canceled altogether.

The move does not appear to be a response to any concessions by China in the trade negotiations. “We’re doing this for the Christmas season,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday.

“Obviously, toys are a sympathetic product,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the United States trade representative in the Obama administration who is now a policy analyst for Farmers for Free Trade, an anti-tariff advocacy group. “I think it’s an admission that it would be politically unpopular to see price increases during the holiday season.”

Toymakers both large and small say they don’t have the ability to absorb cost increases, and would have to almost immediately raise prices. The typical toy in the United States retails for only $10, and profit margins for some of them may be just pennies on the dollar, according to the Toy Association, an industry group.

Mr. Foreman, who sources 92 percent of his products from China, said that if tariffs had gone into effect as planned, they would have eaten up two-thirds or more of his profit for the year.

But the company must now decide whether to try to speed up product shipments to beat the new tariff date in December. That could save money, but will tie up capital and will crowd distribution warehouses with products. For many companies, the large outlays and disappearing profit margins risk throwing lending covenants with banks out of whack.

“It just causes chaos from the top to the bottom of the whole business model,” Mr. Foreman said.

Moving operations out of China to lower-cost countries without tariffs may not eliminate the issue, either. Mr. Trump has threatened tariffs on Mexico, for example, to try to get the country to do more to restrain migrants. The administration has also weighed tariffs on Vietnam because of that country’s rising exports to the United States.

Hasbro, which is based in Rhode Island and makes Nerf, Transformers, Play-Doh and Disney Princess merchandise, said last month that it would aim to produce just half of the goods it sells in the American market in China by the end of 2020. It currently makes about two-thirds there. Much of that production will go to India and Vietnam.

Hasbro has said that it must make this shift slowly. At a hearing on the tariffs in Washington in June, John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief operating officer, said that suppliers in China had been trained to meet strict American product safety standards, and that there was no readily available alternate supply chain outside the country.

China’s factories have not always had the best reputation. The country has faced scandals over toxic infant formula, dog food, drywall and other products. In 2007, Mattel was forced to recall nearly one million toys that had been covered in lead paint by a contract manufacturer in China.

But China’s stature as a supplier has improved. International companies have carefully policed supply chains, and turned to external auditors to ensure rules are followed. China has set up test labs that ensure that exported toys — many of which will wind up in children’s mouths, whether they’re supposed to or not — meet rigorous American and European safety standards.

“What we see in terms of standards is that China is way above countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam,” said Sebastien Breteau, the chief executive of QIMA, which audits supply chains for some of the largest retailers and clothing brands in the United States.

Mr. Breteau said his company found many more instances of child labor, human trafficking, environmental violations and dangerous conditions for workers in Southeast Asia.

These violations often happen not at the factories of major companies but at the partner factories they contract with. When companies are trying to quickly relocate supply chains to get ahead of tariffs — and compete for factory space — these risks can be magnified, Mr. Breteau said.

The Toy Association, which represents Hasbro, Mattel and Lego, as well as small toymakers, said any moves in company supply chains were being done in a measured way, to make sure the same strict safety standards are followed.

“We built this business with China over the last four or five decades,” said Steve Pasierb, the president of the association. “It’s going to take a decade to move.”

China’s wages are gradually rising, making it less attractive for companies looking to get labor-intensive work, like sewing clothes or assembling electronics, done inexpensively. But companies say China’s position as a factory to the world for so many products has given the country an important advantage.

It remains a one-stop shop for many manufacturers. Whether companies need a plastic doll shoe or a computer chip, it can most likely be sourced within 50 miles of a Chinese factory.

Although the administration’s aim is to bring manufacturing back to the United States, toymakers say that isn’t realistic for many low-margin products.

Jim Barber, the owner of Luke’s Toy Factory, which makes eco-friendly trucks for toddlers in Danbury, Conn., said he would like to sell to more lower-income people in the United States, but he realizes that his market is the consumers who can afford to spend money to get what they want, not the majority of people for whom price is the paramount issue.

“You can go to any consumer survey you want and they say, ‘Yes, I’d be willing to pay more for an American-made toy,’” Mr. Barber said. “It’s a complete lie. You talk to any retailer and they’ll tell you that’s not true.”

“Price is what sells toys,” he added. “Price and Batman.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Israel Said to Deny Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them

Westlake Legal Group 15israel-congresswomen-facebookJumbo Israel Said to Deny Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them West Bank visas United States International Relations tlaib, rashida Palestinians Omar, Ilhan Israel Boycotts

JERUSALEM — President Trump called on Thursday for Israel to bar the entry of two American congresswomen who had planned to visit the West Bank, taking an extraordinary step to influence an allied nation and punish his political opponents at home.

It was reported last week that Mr. Trump was pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to deny entrance to the two women, Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and Thursday morning he left little doubt. He said in a Twitter post while Israeli officials were still deliberating the matter that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit.”

Israel is still weighing whether to deny entry to Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, officials said on Thursday. Both women have been vocal in their support of the Palestinians and the boycott-Israel movement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to recommend that another country block entry to two United States citizens, let alone members of Congress, is one of the most pronounced violations of democratic norms that he has engaged in since taking office in January 2017.

It also placed him at odds with the Republican leadership in Congress.

“I feel very secure in this, that anyone who comes with open ears, open eyes and an open mind will walk away with an understanding, just as all these members here do, that this bond is unbreakable,” the House minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, told reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday, while leading a delegation of 31 Republican lawmakers. “I think all should come.”

Speaking at a joint news conference with Mr. McCarthy, Representative Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, who was heading a delegation to Israel of 41 Democratic representatives, agreed.

Many Israelis and Jewish leaders have also expressed discomfort with the idea that American officials could be denied entry because of their beliefs or criticism of Israel. Just last month, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, said that Israel would not deny entry to any United States representatives.

Ms. Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Ms. Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, were scheduled to arrive on Sunday for a tour of the West Bank, partly under the auspices of an organization headed by a longtime Palestinian lawmaker, Hanan Ashrawi, that was expected to highlight Palestinian grievances over the Israeli occupation.

The women were planning to visit the West Bank cities of Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem, as well as Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, including a visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque, a hotly contested and volatile holy site, according to Ms. Ashrawi. Most of the delegation was expected to depart on Aug. 22, but Ms. Tlaib had been planning to stay on to visit relatives in the West Bank.

No meetings had been planned with either Israeli or Palestinian officials, other than Ms. Ashrawi, who is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. She said the organization she leads, Miftah, was co-sponsoring the visit.

The purpose of the visit, Ms. Ashrawi said, was to give the congresswomen a way “to engage with the Palestinian people directly and to see things on the ground.”

“What are they afraid of?” she said, referring to the Israeli government. “That they might find out things?”

Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar, both freshmen, are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Ms. Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, has spoken often of her grandmother, who lives on the West Bank, while Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee, is the first woman to wear a hijab on the House floor.

But while they were hailed as symbols of diversity when they arrived in Washington, they quickly became embroiled in controversy over their statements on Israel and on supporters of the Jewish state. Ms. Omar apologized after she said support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby” — a reference to $100 bills.

In early March, the House voted to condemn all forms of hatred after Ms. Omar said pro-Israel activists were “pushing for allegiance to a foreign country,” a remark that critics in both parties said invoked the longstanding anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty.”

Those remarks have been deeply problematic for Democratic leaders, who are trying to demonstrate solidarity with Israel. And they have given Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans an opening to fan the flames of racial division, in an effort to break the longstanding alliance between American Jews and the Democratic Party.

Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib’s public support for the boycott movement had already drawn criticism from the White House. In remarks last month that were widely condemned as racist, Mr. Trump said that four congresswomen of color — Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib, as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts — should “go back” to the countries they came from. Since then, the chant of “send her back” has become a fixture at President Trump’s political rallies.

Axios reported recently that President Trump had told advisers that he thought Mr. Netanyahu should bar Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar under a law that denies entry to foreign nationals who publicly show support for a boycott.

Under the law, passed in 2017, Israel can bar entry to people considered prominent advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, a loose network that, among other goals, aims to pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank. Pro-Israel advocates accuse the movement’s supporters of anti-Semitism.

Last month, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.”

Mr. Netanyahu, for his part, is in the middle of a tight election campaign, and some analysts say he can ill afford to appear weak when dealing with high-profile critics of Israeli policies. At the same time, he is involved in a high-wire act of trying to balance Israel’s ties with the Democrats and his close embrace of, and support from, Mr. Trump.

“If they are prevented from entering, it will be the foolishness of the Netanyahu government,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, told Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday. “These are congresswomen of the majority party, which most American Jews vote for.”

One of the main points of contention over the planned itinerary appears to be the visit to the Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. A sacred site revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as Temple Mount, the location of their ancient temples, it is a frequent flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a former deputy foreign minister, told Israel’s Kan Radio on Thursday that the congresswomen should be allowed to enter Israel “but with restrictions.”

“If they want to stage a provocation by entering the Temple Mount with Palestinian hosts, then that can be prevented,” he said.

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Stock Markets Take A Breather After Steep Drop

Westlake Legal Group ap_19227536565450-da7aff64299f4fa53605d4116157ce2865ba61d2-s1100-c15 Stock Markets Take A Breather After Steep Drop

Major U.S. stock indexes were nearly unchanged Thursday, a day after their steepest drops of the year. Richard Drew/AP hide caption

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Westlake Legal Group  Stock Markets Take A Breather After Steep Drop

Major U.S. stock indexes were nearly unchanged Thursday, a day after their steepest drops of the year.

Richard Drew/AP

Investors paused to catch their breath Thursday, one day after the stock market suffered its worst drop of the year. Market indexes were flat as investors digested mixed signals about prospects for the U.S. economy.

Consumer spending — a key pillar of the economy — remains strong. Retail sales jumped by 0.7% in July, according to the Commerce Department. After a slow start at the beginning of the year, retail sales have grown for the last five months — a sign that consumers are still feeling good about the economy, with low unemployment and rising wages.

Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, also reported solid sales in the second quarter and raised its profit forecast for the rest of the year.

News from the manufacturing sector is less encouraging. Industrial production slumped in July, with factory output falling 0.4%. The U.S. manufacturing sector is more dependent on exports than the much larger services side of the economy. As a result, factories have suffered more fallout from rising trade tensions.

Disappointing news about manufacturing in China and a report that Germany’s economy shrank in the second quarter helped trigger a sharp selloff on Wall Street Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both fell about 3%.

Investors were also spooked by news that the yield on 10-year Treasury notes dipped below the yield on 2-year notes — an unusual situation that historically has been a warning sign of a looming recession.

Some observers cautioned that this “inverted yield curve” could be a false alarm in this instance.

“I would really urge on this occasion it may be a less good signal” of a recession, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told Fox Business. “I think the U.S. economy has enough strength to avoid that.”

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Trump approval rating drops following mass shootings in latest Fox News poll

CLOSEWestlake Legal Group icon_close Trump approval rating drops following mass shootings in latest Fox News poll

Protestors turned up in both Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas as President Donald Trump visited following two mass shootings that left 31 dead. USA TODAY

A Fox News poll released on Wednesday indicated that support for President Donald Trump among voters has declined, with an approval rating that dropped to 43% from 46% in July.

More respondents said Trump is “tearing the country apart” than did in previous years; 59% thought he is divisive while 31% said he is “drawing the country together.” 

The poll, conducted between August 11 and August 13, includes responses from more than 1,000 people who are currently registered to vote, on both sides of the aisle.

The current rating is heavily influenced by Democratic responses. Only 7% of Democrats in the survey approved of Trump’s performance as president compared 88% of Republicans.

More: Beto O’Rourke on Texas shooting: Trump ‘has no place’ in El Paso

Trump’s reaction to the recent mass shootings is an issue for survey respondents; 52% disapproved. Following the deaths of 22 victims in El Paso, Texas, and 9 in Dayton, Ohio, Trump has called for stronger background checks. Background check measures were supported by the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans who were polled.

According to the poll, a proposal to ban assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons in the country would be favored by 86% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans. Democrats and Republicans also both showed strong favor toward police removing guns from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Other factors for gun violence pointed to by poll respondents were split across party lines. More Republicans believed bad parenting was partly to blame, while Democrats said white nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment were factors.

Ten percent of respondents listed Trump’s rhetoric as a main cause for mass shootings occurring more frequently in the United States than in other countries, making it the third most common response after lack of gun laws and mental health-related issues.

More: Kamala Harris hits back at NRA after group criticizes her gun control proposals

Disapproval of the National Rifle Association has also been climbing, with a current unfavorability rating of 47%, up from 45% in March 2018.

Overall, the majority of respondents prefer to live in a country where people have the right to own guns when asked to choose between that and a ban, with an overwhelming support from Republicans at 84% and only 32% from Democrats.

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Israel Bars Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib From Entering Country Over BDS Support

Westlake Legal Group 5d55415b2200003100f60718 Israel Bars Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib From Entering Country Over BDS Support

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), two of Israel’s sharpest critics in Congress, have been barred from entering the country ahead of their proposed visit to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Israeli official said Thursday.

“The decision has been made [and] the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israel’s Reshet Radio, Reuters reported.

Israel decided to ban the freshman lawmakers in response to their support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

BDS seeks to put economic pressure on Israel to recognize the movement’s demands, which include equal rights for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the country’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be denied entry to the country. But Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said last month that Omar and Tlaib would be allowed to visit.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” he said.

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that it would show “great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit.”

“Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office,” he wrote. “They are a disgrace!”

Neither Omar nor Tlaib immediately responded a request for comment.

Last year, Omar and Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Tlaib, an American of Palestinian heritage, has family in the West Bank. If she made a special humanitarian request to visit her family, it would be considered “favorably,” a senior Israeli government official told The Washington Post.

The two congresswomen have been criticized roundly by Republicans, as well as some members of their own party, for speaking out against America’s relationship with Israel. Some Republicans, including Trump, have accused them of being anti-Semitic, though Omar and Tlaib have made clear they take issue with the Israeli government ― not with Jewish people.

Omar and Tlaib have not formally announced a date for their proposed trip. It could begin as early as this weekend, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the planned visit.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Minnesota man whose wife died after meth-fueled ‘death party’ is sentenced

The Minnesota man who held a meth-fueled “death party” with his dying wife — during which officials say she died of an overdose — was sentenced on Monday.

Duane Johnson, 59, was initially charged with third-degree murder in the death of Debra Johnson, 69. She was found dead in her home in Searles, a city roughly 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis, in January by first responders who arrived after Johnson called 911 to report her death.

NEW MEXICO MAN FORCE-FED CAT METH, BATTERED GIRLFRIEND, POLICE SAY

Westlake Legal Group Duane-Johnson-Brown-County-Sheriffs-Office Minnesota man whose wife died after meth-fueled 'death party' is sentenced Nicole Darrah fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/minnesota fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc article 7e0a9736-9cd7-5663-88ac-fe8e9997175f

Duane Johnson, 59, was sentenced to three years in prison for criminal neglect after his wife died following a “death party” the two reportedly held earlier this year. (Brown County Sheriff’s Office)

Investigators found Debra wrapped in a sheet, according to WCCO. Deputies said Johnson claimed his wife begged him to take her out of a nursing home and let her die in their Minnesota home.

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Johnson, who reportedly told authorities he and his dying wife spent several days before her death doing drugs, later negotiated a plea deal that allowed him to plead guilty to criminal neglect.

He was sentenced to three years in prison, but is likely to serve 19 months behind bars before spending the remainder on supervised release, the news outlet reported.

Westlake Legal Group Duane-Johnson-Brown-County-Sheriffs-Office Minnesota man whose wife died after meth-fueled 'death party' is sentenced Nicole Darrah fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/minnesota fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc article 7e0a9736-9cd7-5663-88ac-fe8e9997175f   Westlake Legal Group Duane-Johnson-Brown-County-Sheriffs-Office Minnesota man whose wife died after meth-fueled 'death party' is sentenced Nicole Darrah fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/minnesota fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/us fnc article 7e0a9736-9cd7-5663-88ac-fe8e9997175f

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'Nothing short of a miracle': Dramatic standoff with Philadelphia gunman ends with no loss of life

CLOSEWestlake Legal Group icon_close 'Nothing short of a miracle': Dramatic standoff with Philadelphia gunman ends with no loss of life

This is the second major police shooting this week. The first occurred at a California traffic stop. USA TODAY

PHILADELPHIA — Throughout a seven-hour gun battle that turned a Philadelphia neighborhood into a war-zone and left six officers injured, the goal was “preservation of life,” police commissioner Richard Ross said, explaining a day of intense gunfire and tear gas salvos before the gunman surrendered early Thursday.

At one point, with hundreds of officers pinned down by erratic gunfire, a SWAT team rescued two officers trapped upstairs with handcuffed prisoners in the north Philadelphia home. 

In the end, the police tactics worked as the shooter, with his hands up, was driven from his home after a tear gas barrage and all the injured officers were treated and released.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we don’t have multiple officers killed today,” Ross said.

Throughout the ordeal, he said, the goal was “preservation of life, irrespective of who it is.”

The gunman was identified as Maurice Hill, 36, a Philadelphia man with an extensive record of gun convictions and resisting arrest, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Associated Press reported.

The melee erupted as officers came to the house in a north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone row homes to serve drug arrest warrants.

The standoff was especially unnerving as hundreds of officers, often pinned down by barrages of erratic gunfire from the house, had to operate in the densely populated area of narrow streets and tightly packed houses.

Seven-hour standoff: Gunman surrenders after ‘volatile’ standoff in Philadelphia; 6 officers shot

At one point, dozens of children had to be evacuated from a nearby day care center next door.

Temple University’s medical campuses nearby were placed on lockdown and trains and buses were ordered not to stop along neighborhood routes.

The chaotic confrontation even included an unusual move by Ross, the police commissioner, who got on the phone to negotiate directly with the shooter.

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“I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself,” he said explaining why, from his perch 200 yards away, he decided to get directly involved in the effort to end the stalemate.

The standoff near Temple University unfolded Wednesday afternoon with an attempt to serve arrest warrants that “went awry almost immediately,” Ross said.

Many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets,” he said.

As gunfire erupted and officers scrambled to safety, two officers were trapped on the second floor – one officer guarding two handcuffed prisoners and the other holed up in a bathroom with a third prisoner.

At one point, one of the officers calmly radioed the chaotic scene to police surrounding the building.

“We are pinned down in the second floor with three individuals handcuffed,” one officer said. “You can hear the male moving down stairs on the first floor.”

‘We have to do something’: Mayor calls for gun control after Philadelphia shooting; suspect identified

During another round of gunfire, another officer can be heard saying, “The male is reloading, the male is reloading, shots fired inside.”

A SWAT team eventually made its way into the structure and brought the officers to safety.

Outside, meanwhile, officers hunkered down behind cars while others tried to keep residents and circling news helicopters at bay.

Dozens of officers on foot lined the streets. Others were in cars and some on horses.

At one point, an armored police vehicle known as a BearCat arrived to move some of the cars outside the targeted home.

“I was just coming off the train and I was walking upstairs and there were people running back downstairs who said that there was someone up there shooting cops,” said Abdul Rahman Muhammad, 21, an off-duty medic. “There was just a lot of screaming and chaos.”

For a large portion of the standoff, the gunman refused to engage with police beyond answering the phone they were using to contact him. Ross said the man would answer but not say anything for much of the time.

At one point, late in the evening, the gunman called his lawyer Shaka Johnson, who told CBS3 that his client him around 8:30 p.m. on his personal phone “in a panic.”

“I told him, ‘you gotta surrender, man,’” Johnson said.

Police still haven’t determined how much weaponry the gunman had, other than what was found on him when officers took him into custody. Ross said that weapon was a handgun, possibly a .380.

SWAT officers “preliminarily confirmed” there was a long gun inside the residence, as well, but said the scene has not yet been processed because of the use of tear gas inside the house.

“It was a very dynamic situation,” Ross said, “one I hope we never see again.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was thankful that officers’ injuries weren’t life-threatening.

“I’m a little angry about someone having all that weaponry and all that firepower, but we’ll get to that another day,” Kenney said.

Contributing: Associated Press

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