President Donald Trump on Wednesday linked the ongoing trade talks with China to the humane resolution of protests shaking the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong.
“Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” he said on Twitter.
In his remarks, the president appeared to suggest a personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the crisis.
Trump also reiterated claims that “thousands” of companies were leaving China.
Trump also said China needed a trade deal more than the U.S., although China has argued otherwise. The comment followed his announcement that he was extending his Sept. 1 deadline for 10 percent tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports such as cell phones, laptops and consumer goods until Dec. 15.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t rule out a meeting in a statement to NBC News, saying the two heads of state have “maintained contact all along.”
“We hope that the U.S. side will meet half-way with the Chinese side, implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state in Osaka, and on the basis of equality and mutual respect and through dialogue and consultation,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman to the ministry, referring to a Trump-Xi meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 economic summit in Japan in late June.
China’s economy — the world’s second largest — does appear to be cooling, with urban unemployment jumping to 5.3 percent in the first half of the year, compared with 5.1 percent in the same period last year.
Industrial output, meanwhile, was at a 17-year low in July while the yuan has slipped versus the dollar.
Despite the tensions with the U.S., more than 80 percent of member companies with the American Chamber of Commerce in China reported they expected to see economic growth in 2019, but at a lower level than government estimates.
Wall Street, meanwhile, took a battering on Wednesday after movements in the bond market signaled the sharpest indication yet of an approaching recession.
Trump blamed the Federal Reserve for the market plunge, calling Fed Chairman Jerome Powell “clueless” in an afternoon tweet.
How tensions in Hong Kong would factor into China-U.S. trade talks remains unclear despite the president raising the issue. China has frequently warned against outside interference with its authority over Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong affairs is purely China’s internal affairs,” said Chunying, China’s foreign affairs spokeswoman. She added that Trump has previously stated China should have autonomy in resolving the issue in Hong Kong because the territory is part of the country — a perspective China hopes the U.S. will maintain.
Protests have gripped Hong Kong since June after a controversial extradition bill left many fearful it would lead to the erosion of residents’ rights, giving more power to Beijing.
The disruption and chaos have plunged the stock market in Hong Kong — an Asian financial hub — to a seven-month low, adding to the pressures on both Hong Kong and China’s economies.
The territory could be pushed into a recession, research firm Capital Economics has warned, with a growing risk of “an even worse outcome if a further escalation triggers capital flight.”
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s government announced a $2.44 billion package to prop up the economy, amid fears of lower growth rates. The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong also said the city’s reputation would be seriously damaged if the unrest did not stop soon.
The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Unlike those living in mainland China, the territory’s 7 million residents can freely surf the internet and participate in public protests.
Protests have become increasingly violent, with clashes breaking out on the streets and most recently, at the city’s busy international airport, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights. The demonstrators are not only demanding that the extradition bill be revoked, but also that the territory’s Beijing-backed chief executive Carrie Lam step down and the police’s alleged use of excessive force be investigated.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired footage of an anti-riot police drill involving 12,000 police officers and dozens of armored and assault vehicles, helicopters and boats in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong earlier this month. More recently, a satellite photo released by Maxar Technologies this week showed dozens of paramilitary vehicles and members of China’s People’s Armed Police assembling at a Shenzhen stadium on Monday.
Meanwhile, more protests were planned across several districts of Hong Kong on Thursday and the Civil Human Rights Front — behind the million-strong marches in June — plans another demonstration for Sunday.
Linda Givetash reported from London, and Eric Baculinao and Dawn Liu from Beijing
Gay workers not covered by civil rights law, Trump admin tells Supreme Court
The Trump administration Friday filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that gay workers are not protected by federal civil rights law. The filing came exactly one week after the administration argued the same for transgender workers.
The brief was submitted in combined cases concerning Gerald Bostock, a gay man fired from his job as a child welfare services worker by Clayton County, Georgia, and the late Donald Zarda, a gay man fired from his job as a skydiving instructor by New York company Altitude Express. The Bostock and Zarda cases are two of three cases concerning LGBTQ workers’ rights that the Supreme Court is expected to hear this fall.
This latest brief, submitted by Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and other Department of Justice attorneys, argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, “does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation.”
“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the brief states. “An employer thus discriminates ‘because of * * * sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
The issue of whether “sex” discrimination in Title VII includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has caused a split in lower courts over the past several years, with some backing gay workers and others the employers who have fired them.
In addition to the Zarda and Bostock cases, the Supreme Court is set to hear R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. That case concerns Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was beginning her gender transition. The Trump administration filed an amicus brief in the Stephens case Aug. 16, siding with the employer.
Prior to its amicus briefs in the Bostock, Zarda and Stephens cases, the Trump administration had already made its position clear on the scope of sex discrimination in Title VII. In July 2017, the Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Zarda case opposing the extension of Title VII discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. And in October 2018 — prior to the Supreme Court decision to hear the Stephens case — the Justice Department filed a brief with the high court siding with the funeral home. In the Stephens case, the federal government is pitted against itself, since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a defendant in the case.
The Supreme Court will hear the cases next term, which begins in October.
Julie Moreau contributed.
After El Paso shooting, Latino lawmakers slam Texas governor for ‘dangerous’ tweets about immigrants
AUSTIN, Texas — In the wake of the El Paso domestic terror attack, lawmakers and Democrats, many of them Latino, are slamming language used by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a tweet and a fundraising letter as anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant.
On Friday, members of the state’s El Paso legislative delegation and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus condemned Abbott’s language on a Twitter thread in which Abbott said the state has been forced to pay for the education of “illegal immigrants.”
“Our community is trying to heal from racially driven violence. This hurts. It is dangerous,” the El Paso state lawmakers tweeted individually from their accounts.
The caucus went further, saying the “attack on a child’s right to an education is immoral and infuriating, regardless of citizenship status”, and said Abbot has “demonized” the immigrant community “since day one” and “fueled the widespread hate towards our Latino family.”
The backlash over Abbott’s tweet comes the day after the governor held a roundtable on the El Paso attack that left 22 people dead. Abbott said helping El Paso heal, particularly its children, is a priority. It also comes amid outrage over a fundraising letter dated the day before the Aug. 3 attack. In it, Abbott decries illegal immigration and calls on supporters to “DEFEND Texas.”
In the United States, children cannot be turned away from schools based on their immigration status after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which Abbott mentions in his tweet. The case originated in Tyler, Texas.
El Paso sits on the Texas border and some of its students come legally from its adjoining city Juarez, Mexico. Not all are undocumented.
Abbott’s office did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. In public comments after Thursday’s roundtable, Abbott struck a different tone. He said the roundtable in Austin and another planned Aug. 29 in El Paso are intended to find ways for “rooting out hateful ideologies.”
“We know you feel you are attacked as human beings. We want you to know that we as Texans come shoulder to shoulder and side by side with you, as one family working together,” he said.
James Dickey, Republican Party of Texas chairman, said it’s an “absurd stretch to argue that language like ‘defend Texas’ can be construed by any sane person to mean ‘go murder people.'”
Political mailing stirs controversy
Abbott’s political mailer, which was provided to NBC News by the Texas Democratic Party, told supporters that “if we’re going to DEFEND Texas, we’ll need to take matters into our own hands.”
After citing immigration apprehension statistics and criticizing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Abbott warned of a plan by liberals to “transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration.”
Police said the gunman who opened fire on an El Paso Walmart told them his target was “Mexicans,” and that he posted an anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant screed that stated the attack was a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The screed also states Democrats are trying to “enact a political coup” by opening borders and legalizing millions of new voters to transform Texas from a Republican-controlled to a Democratic-controlled state.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, whose district is El Paso, criticized Abbott for his letter in a tweet Thursday.
“If Greg Abbott ever wonders why there is so much hate and anger toward Mexicans and immigrants, he should take a long look at his rhetoric, policies and now his mailer,” she said.
Texas Democrats blasted the governor’s letter Thursday in a news release that was issued while Abbott was holding the roundtable. They said the language in Abbott’s letter is the sort that fueled the hatred of the suspected shooter.
“It’s long past time for Republicans to eradicate white supremacist language from their discourse — people are dying,” Democrats said in the statement.
Rep. Rafael Anchía, chairman of the MALC, listed actions Abbott has taken as governor and the state’s attorney general regarding immigrants, including supporting Arizona laws that give law enforcement officers more power to investigate individuals’ citizenship status.
Anchía called on the governor to end the rhetoric, his mailers and “anti-immigrant policies.”
“All Texans, including the Latino community, should feel safe in their home. Governor Abbott is instead doing the exact opposite by promoting fear,” Anchía said in a statement.
Members of El Paso’s delegation said they raised the issue of anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric with the governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and other participants in the Austin roundtable.
Texas Rep. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, said after the meeting there was consensus that the El Paso attack was an atrocity that happened to Latinos, that it was racially based and that “a racist white nationalist” did the attack.
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, the House Speaker pro tem, said Thursday there was a “very poignant” moment during the discussions when a participant said that “language matters and it matters more when it’s (from) leaders in our state.”
“I think that point was made very clearly,” he said.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent treatment for tumor on pancreas, Supreme Court says
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently underwent a fresh round of treatment for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas, the high court said in a statement Friday.
The three-week radiation treatment, performed at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, was administered after doctors discovered a “localized malignant tumor” on her pancreas on July 31, the statement said.
The treatment — called stereotactic ablative radiation therapy — was administered in an outpatient setting for a three-week period that began Aug. 5. Doctors also inserted a bile duct stent as part of the treatment, which Ginsburg completed Friday, the court said.
In the statement, the court said that Ginsburg “tolerated treatment well” and that “no further treatment is needed at this time.”
“The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” the court said. “Justice Ginsburg will continue to have periodic blood tests and scans.”
The tumor is the 86-year-old justice’s latest cancer scare. She has suffered a number of health setbacks in recent months, including a fall that fractured three ribs in November followed by surgery to remove two cancerous growths from her lung at the end of December. She missed oral arguments for a case in January, the first time she had missed courtroom arguments in 25 years.
Ginsburg had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.
Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed at later stages of the disease, because its earliest symptoms can be quite vague, including loss of appetite, depression, jaundice, fatigue and abdominal pain.
The vast majority of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society. Just 9 percent are expected to survive more than five years.
By all accounts, Ginsberg has tolerated this most recent radiation treatment well.
“A three-week course of radiation for pancreas cancer is moving into the standard of care,” said Dr. Kenneth Merrell, a radiation oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Merrell has not treated Justice Ginsberg.
“We are finding that this is a very tolerable course of treatment with little impact on the patient’s quality of life,” Merrell told NBC News.
Affectionately known as “RBG,” Ginsburg is the court’s oldest serving justice and was nominated in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton.
If the liberal Ginsburg were to step down from the bench, that would enable President Donald Trump to name her replacement. The nine-person court is currently made up of five justices nominated by Republican presidents and four nominated by Democratic presidents. Trump has so far nominated, and seen confirmed, two of the justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that if a Supreme Court vacancy were to emerge next year, he would act to fill it quickly — a stark divergence from his decision in 2016 to block the consideration of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier that year.
Ginsburg, however, has vowed to stay on the court for several more years, if possible.
Last August, she told CNN that she had no intention of retiring in the near future.
“My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, stepped down when he was 90, so I think I have about at least five more years,” she said.
Erika Edwards contributed.
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