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Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Immigration Debate: The Problem With the Word “Illegal”

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 24, 2012

It’s inflammatory, imprecise, and most of all, inaccurate. So why does everyone — from Chuck Schumer to Mitt Romney — use it?
image: Young people wait in line to enter the office of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeleson the first day of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Aug. 15, 2012.

What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?”

Add that to the list of questions I am repeatedly asked since publicly disclosing my undocumented immigrant status in the summer of 2011. Calling undocumented people “illegal immigrants” — or worse, “illegal aliens,” asMitt Romney did in front of a largely Latino audience last week — has become such standard practice for politicians and the media, from Bill O’Reilly to the New York Times, that people of all political persuasions do not think twice about doing it, too.

(MOREFor Romney, Fundraising Comes First)

But describing an immigrant as “illegal” is legally inaccurate. Being in the country without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one. (Underscoring this reality, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority opinion on SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a movable alien to remain in the United States.”) In a country that believes in due process of the law, calling an immigrant “illegal” is akin to calling a defendant awaiting trial a “criminal.”  The term “illegal” is also imprecise. For many undocumented people — there are 11 million in the U.S. and most have immediate family members who are American citizens, either by birth or naturalization — their immigration status is fluid and, depending on individual circumstances, can be adjusted. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are American Values These Days?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 5, 2012

The Republican strategist and the Democratic pollster reflect on which core beliefs are still central to our lives.
 Anna Dykema Photography / Getty Images
ANNA DYKEMA PHOTOGRAPHY / GETTY IMAGES

Penn: My hope this July 4th is that we focus as Americans in reviving our sport values – values that have made us great and can rekindle in our optimism for the future as they have done many times before. From Jesse Owens’s victories in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid in 1980, great athletic events have crystalized our faith in the country.

These days, sports are marred by scandals that go far beyond cheating, and it seems that every feel-good sports moment has its nefarious counterpart. Sports have always represented American values of fair competition, community, hard work, and the American Dream. But Americans believe our values are in decline, and while this is most clearly attributed to a lack of faith in political and economic institutions, perhaps our athletic institutions best demonstrate why we as a nation have become pessimistic about our values. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian-American Dilemma: Good News Is Bad News

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 28, 2012

Our binary way of thinking about race prevents us from openly discussing the challenges that still exist
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES
Pedestrians walk by an American flag mural in Chinatown on June 19, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif.

Liu’s latest book is The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report called “The Rise of Asian Americans,” offering a portrait seemingly full of good news. Asian Americans, Pew said, are on the whole more educated, affluent and happier than other Americans. They hew more strongly to family values and an ethic of hard work. And, quietly, these 17 million Asian Americans have surpassed Hispanics as the largest and fastest-growing cohort of immigrants to the U.S.

(MORE: Christopher J. Ferguson: What You Need to Know About the New Census Numbers on Hispanic Births) Read the rest of this entry »

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Can India Balance Its Ties with the U.S. and Iran?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 9, 2012

Shannon Stapleton / AFP / Getty Images

SHANNON STAPLETON / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (L) meets with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on May 7, 2012.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her visit to Kolkata and New Delhi this week to urge India to up its efforts in reducing oil imports from Iran. In remarks made in Kolkata, Clinton commended the cuts India has made in the last few years, but said that it is part of “India’s role in the international community” to go further and join the U.S.-led effort to pressure Tehran to open its nuclear program up to inspections.

(READ: To confront Iran, will the U.S. risk ties with India?)

In late June, the U.S. will be imposing sanctions targeting the financial institutions of nations that don’t cut back on their Iranian oil imports. The heat got turned up a notch for both India and South Korea — both big customers for Tehran — since Clinton announced in March that 10 European nations as well as Japan, which is in the midst of an energy crunch after last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis, earned an exemption from the sanctions after slashing their imports. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads From Around the World: April 26, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 26, 2012

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GettyImages/Pool

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GETTYIMAGES/POOL
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor takes notes at the start of the judgement hearing of his trial on charge of arming Sierra Leone’s rebels who paid him in “blood diamonds,” on April 26, 2012 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in Leidschendam outside The Hague

Life For Death? – The five-year trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, accused of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other offenses, is finally coming to a close in The Hague on Thursday, with a possible life sentence for the ousted leader. The Guardian, live-blogging the verdict from the tribunal, noted that Taylor is “clearly listening with care,” as it is read out. And judges found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

New Front in Drone War – The White House expanded the authority of the Pentagon and CIA to carry out drone strikes in Yemen, which is widely believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives, the New York Times reports. U.S. Defense Secretary LeonPanetta has defended the strategy, the Guardian says, but international legal experts argue that drone strikes amount to execution of suspects before trial, making them illegal – especially when carried out in Yemen where the U.S. is not engaged in war.

Questioning Misogyny – Following the fierce debate over its cover story, “Why Do They Hate Us?“ which casts Arab societies as deeply misogynistic, Foreign Policy shares critiques and commentary from six Muslim observers, including the senior editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language website. Also chiming in is The Atlantic’s Max Fisher, who argues that while misogyny is a problem in Arab countries, it’s not a distinctively Arab problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads from Around the World: March 20, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 20, 2012

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaking during a Ramadan Iftar banquet in honor of Muslim clergymen, in Damascus, Syria, 24 August 2011. (Photo: SANA / EPA)

SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR ASSAD SPEAKING DURING A RAMADAN IFTAR BANQUET IN HONOR OF MUSLIM CLERGYMEN, IN DAMASCUS, SYRIA, 24 AUGUST 2011. (PHOTO: SANA / EPA)

More Syria Leaks – Al Jazeera reveals details from confidential Syrian intelligence and security documents handed over by one of the government’s most trusted officials who recently fled to Turkey. The trove shows President Bashar Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including orders to stop protesters from getting into Damascus and detailed security plans for crushing protests in the cities of Aleppo and Idlib, as well as warnings about countries trying to influence Syrian diplomats to defect and indications the government spied on last year’s Arab League monitoring mission in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

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Subject for Debate: Are Women People?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 8, 2012

I’ve always assumed that women are fully autonomous human citizens—who vote, even!—but now I’m not so certain
Luke Sharrett / The New York Times / Redux

LUKE SHARRETT / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX
From left: Catholic Bishop William Lori, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Dr. Ben Mitchell, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Craig Mitchell are sworn in during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 16, 2012. The hearing was called to discuss the Obama administration’s contraceptive policy for employees at religious institutions.

All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.

You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)

In the hopes of clarifying these and other issues, below I’ve recapped recent instances of powerful men from the fields of law, politics and literature tackling the question that has captured America’s imagination: Are Women People? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sarkozy Unexpectedly Calls Earlier French Troop Exit From Afghanistan

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 29, 2012

By BRUCE CRUMLEY

JOEL SAGET / AFP / GETTY IMAGES French soldiers from the 1st Infantry Regiment return to the Nijrab FOB (Forward Operating Base) military base in Tora, in the Surobi province in Afghanistan, on Dec. 31, 2011.

So it turns out France is indeed leaving Afghanistan earlier than planned, and will seek to bring the last of its current 3,900 troops home by the end of 2013. Despite signs earlier in the week from French government officials indicating no premature pullout was in the works (and stories like mine explaining why that was the case), French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday announced he’d draw French troops down a year ahead of the current 2014 NATO departure date—and will moreover urge Alliance partners to replicate France’s stepped-up hand-over of security duties to Afghan forces.

Sarkozy’s decision came after a meeting with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It also occurred one week after Sarkozy threatened to pull French forces from Afghanistan after four unarmed French troopers were gunned down in a fortified base by an allied Afghan army soldier. Infuriated at those killings—which came less than a month after two other French soldiers were killed by presumably friendly Afghan forces—Sarkozy suspended training of and joint patrols with Afghan units. He also said he’d consider withdrawing France’s entire contingent rapidly if the risk from  Afghan allies couldn’t be diminished. In making their comments in Paris Friday, Karzai and Sarkozy sought to allay fears that moves were afoot to bring the NATO operation to an end before its current 2014 deadline. But they also said the ability and numbers of Afghan forces had increased to the point where they could now assume responsibility for the country’s security ahead of the current NATO time table. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can China Benefit From Growing U.S.-Iran Tensions?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 16, 2012

By AUSTIN RAMZY

U.S. efforts to reduce global demand for Iran’s oil exports as a means to pressure it into curbing its nuclear ambitions could present major problems for China, the leading customer of Iranian crude exports. China reacted strongly over the weekend to U.S. sanctions on Zhuhai Zhenrong, a Chinese firm the U.S. calls the largest supplier of refined petroleum to Iran. (Although a major petroleum producer, Iran is dependent on gasoline imports due to limited domestic refinery capacity.) Those imports violated U.S. law, the U.S. State Department says, and as a result Zhuhai Zhenrong is “barred from receiving U.S. export licenses, U.S. Export Import Bank financing, and loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company appears to have no U.S. assets, so the sanctions are “largely symbolic.” But they raised the ire of the Chinese government. On Saturday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called U.S. efforts to internationalize its  sanctions against Iran by target a Chinese company were “completely unreasonable and don’t conform with the spirit or content of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” according to a statement (in Chinese) posted on the ministry’s website.

Last week U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Beijing, seeking to convince China to back further sanctions against Iran. Last month President Obama signed legislation that would block firms that deal with Iran’s central bank—the key processor of oil receipts—from the U.S. financial system. Exceptions would be made for states that significantly reduce crude oil purchases from Iran. Japan, a major importer of oil from Iran, said it would support the U.S. measure. But China responded cautiously. Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said ahead of Geithner’s visit that China’s oil imports should be considered separately from the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Qatari Owners of Paris’ Soccer Team Hanker For Aging Englishman Beckham

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 22, 2011

By BRUCE CRUMLEY

Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham fights for the ball against Emelio "Chieffy" Caligdong of the Philippines national football team Azkals during their friendly match at the Rizal Memorial football stadium in Manila December 3, 2011.

Why does perennially under-performing Paris Saint-Germain of France’s anemic professional soccer league see hiring a fading star at over $1 million per month as vital to assuring its future? Because the aging player in question is David Beckham, whose marketing and financial allure is considered as important as his footballing skill by PSG’s Qatari owners. And even if Beckham’s representatives are denying reports that the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder has come to an unofficial agreement with PSG, there are reasons to suspect the resurgent rumors may yet come to fruition. After all, the Paris club is only one part of a mix with which Qatari VIPs are looking to boost the Emirate’s prestige through the world’s most popular sport. And despite his advancing age and slowing gait, Beckham remains not only one of the biggest global draws in the game—but just the kind of meta-star capable of mesmerizing celebrity-crazed, sports-fickle inhabitants of Paris.

French media was again abuzz Wednesday with reports that the 36-year-old Beckham has agreed to sign an 18-month contract with PSG once his Galaxy deal expires Dec. 31. According to dailies le Parisien and l’Equipe, Beckham has accepted a league-topping $1.05 million monthly salary whose total value could be nearly doubled by $22.3 million in performance bonuses—most of those based on Beckham’s merchandizing potential, rather than footballing potency. Indeed, in addition to Beckham’s iconic and hunk status that’s expected to broaden PSG’s appeal to a far wider base of Parisians (a population infamous as fair weather fans who demand big matches, lots of glitz, and the likelihood of victory to even start caring much about sports), the association with the former England hero might well allow Paris Saint-German to finally establish a true brand identity abroad. And that, it’s hoped, could mean millions in new income from PSG jerseys selling alongside the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona merchandize in foreign markets–particularly in Beckham-mad Asia. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Whole World Watches Again: Occupy Wall Street Strikes Back

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 17, 2011

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Protesters cheer as they listen to speakers near Sproul Hall at the University of California at Berkeley as they participate in an Occupy Cal rally Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, California. (Jeff Chiu / AP)

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg authorized the city’s police force to move in and bring an end to the near two month occupation of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, he struck at the symbolic heart of a movement that, through the sheer fact of its presence, captured the imagination of thousands around the world. Bloomberg framed the eviction as a matter of health and safety: he would not let the occupation peter out on its own as New York’s frigid winter set in—“inaction was not an option,” read the statement issued by the mayor’s office following the police raid. But as Occupy Wall Street embarks on a day of action across New York City that’s being echoed by protests around the U.S. and the world, Bloomberg may yet question whether he should have let Zuccotti be.

According to one Occupy Wall Street organizer, estimates for attendance at events planned for Nov. 17 have tripled following the sudden NYPD sweep into what the protesters call Liberty Plaza. Nov. 17 marks two months since the occupation at Zuccotti Park began and Occupy Wall Street, alongside allied organizations, including unions, had been scheming actions weeks in advance. Some New York City officials now expect “tens of thousands” out on the streets in possibly the biggest show of dissent since the movement began.

There are three main events planned in New York, as this somewhat hyperbolic poster (invoking Tiananmen Square) lays out: the first is a mass rally starting from Zuccotti Park (once again opened to protest), attempting to “shut down” Wall Street with a march on the heavily fortified New York Stock Exchange; the second involves disparate groups of protesters taking over subway lines and telling their individual stories through the “people’s mike” while on board; the third will be the culmination of the day’s activities, with thousands streaming into Foley Square, near New York’s City Hall, alongside a substantial presence from local and national labor unions. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Will China Respond to a New U.S. Military Presence in Australia?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 11, 2011

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U.S. plans to station troops in Australia to help counter China’s growing clout might be expected to provoke cries of

US Marines Humvee four-wheel drive vehicles and a US Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion position themselves for the Talisman Saber 2009 joint exercise on July 15, 2009 on Freshwater Bay Beach near Townsville, Australia. (Photo: Department of Defence / Getty Images)

indignation from Beijing. But the development, which President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard are expected to formally announce on Nov. 17 during Obama’s visit to Australia, has thus far generated little in the way of complaint from the Chinese government. That could change once the plan is formally outlined.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that the deal would lead to increased exercises and allow the U.S. to place hardware in Australia, but would not lead to the creation of new U.S. bases. The Sydney Morning Herald added that U.S. Marines will be stationed at an existing Australian base near the northern port city of Darwin, which Obama and Gillard will visit next Thursday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded to the news Thursday by saying Chinese officials “hope relevant countries’ bilateral cooperation will be conducive to the Asia-Pacific region’s security, peace and stability,” the Journal reported. Earlier this year China launched its first aircraft carrier, and it has been involved in increasingly heated disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines over overlapping claims to the South China Sea. The Global Times, a tabloid owned by China’s Communist Party, quoted an unnamed expert yesterday who said that because the U.S. has seen China’s increasing ability to threaten forces in the “first island chain”—the line of islands in the Western Pacific stretching from Japan to the Philippines, it is now focusing on defending positions further removed from China.

The U.S. and Australia already jointly operate two military facilities: the Pine Gap surveillance station near Alice Springs near the geographical center of Australia and the Harold Holt naval communication station in Western Australia. Plans to increase the U.S. presence in Australia have been mooted over the past year at the annual AUSMIN talks between the two countries. In September, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. and Australia were “making steady progress in developing options for our two militaries to be able to train and operate together more closely, including more combined defense activities and a shared use of facilities.” Read the rest of this entry »

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You Say You Wanna Bomb Iran? Take a Number and Stand in Line

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 3, 2011

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Yes, you heard right: Britain  is preparing to bomb Iran. Well, that’s if the latest reported leaks from the British government are to be believed. The Guardian — not known, like some of its British rivals are, for frequent breathless front-page claims of imminent military strikes on Iran — reported Wednesday that Britain’s Defense Ministry has stepped up plans for military action against Iran. Not that the Brits would kick things off, of course; their contingency planning is ostensibly geared towards playing a largely symbolic support role (think “Coalition of the Willing”)  should the Obama Administration “decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities.”

Beneath the attention-grabbing headline, the story is a familiar one:  British officials believe that while President Barack Obama “has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s U.S. election … the calculus could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by Western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.”

The Guardian’s sources create the impression of dramatic new developments and a ticking clock, although the consensus among the  world’s intelligence agencies that Iran remains some years away from having  nuclear weapons, and has not yet decided to actually build them even though it is assembling the means to do so. But the alarmist messaging certainly jibes with an Israeli diplomatic campaign launched to persuade reluctant governments to impose tough new sanctions on Iran if they hope to avoid a potentially catastrophic war. Israel underscored the point, Wednesday, announcing it had successfully tested a missile capable of reaching Iran — at the same time as Israeli papers were filled with stories claiming that  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking cabinet approval for bombing Iran. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will the Washington Bomb Plot Force Obama into War with Iran?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 14, 2011

By Tony Karon 

“We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other,” outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month. “If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right — that there will be miscalculation, which could be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.”

Mullen’s warning of the perils arising from the two sides’ inability to communicate and understand each other’s intentions — “Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union” — seems especially prescient amid the fallout from the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, blamed by the U.S. on “elements of the Iranian government.” Claims that officials within the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps initiated a bizarre scheme via an Iranian-American used-car salesman — described by his former business partner as “a sort of hustler” — to enlist the services of a Mexican drug gang for a terrorism strike in the U.S. capital have been seized on by the Administration to press for tougher international action against Tehran.

“We see this as a chance to go out to capitals and around the world and talk to allies and partners about what the Iranians tried to do,” an unnamed official told the Washington Post. “We’re going to use this to isolate them to the maximum extent possible.” Vice President Joe Biden added, darkly, that when it came to responding to Iran’s behavior, “nothing has been taken off the table.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Can a Stronger Chinese Currency Save the U.S. Economy?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 5, 2011

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Give Charles Schumer credit for persistence. The New York Senator first introduced legislation that targeted Chinese currency in 2003, and has been a leading congressional advocate of the view that China keeps the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low, giving its exporters an unfair advantage when competing against U.S. manufacturers. On Monday a bill co-sponsored by Schumer that would allow for duties on goods from countries found to be currency manipulators won a Senate vote to open debate 79-19. If it passes a full Senate vote later this week it faces tougher odds in the House, where Speaker John Boehner has called the legislation “dangerous.” The White House has also so far not said where it stands on the bill.

On Tuesday China’s Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Commerce and central bank all slammed the bill, warning that it could set off a trade war and harm the global economy. Schumer responded Tuesday on the Senate floor by suggesting the Chinese position was a bluff, as a trade war would harm China more than the U.S. “They won’t cut their nose to spite their face,” he said. “They may take a few sanctions in response, but they’re not going to create a trade war.”  It is much the same argument Schumer put to me while on a visit to China in March 2005. But in the past five-and-a-half years, a few key numbers have changed. Most significant is U.S. unemployment. In March 2005 the unemployment rate was high at 6.1%, but this August it stood at 9.1%. That added economic misery in the U.S. will add to the political pressure to punish China. Read the rest of this entry »

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