fresh voices from the front lines of change







U.S., Canada, Mexico Agree to 'NAFTA 2.0'

Revised Nafta sets up a showdown with China. NYT: "A jubilant Mr. Trump celebrated the new Nafta agreement as the fulfillment of a bedrock campaign promise. He claimed it was a vindication of his aggressive use of tariffs and vowed to keep imposing them to extract deals from other trading partners, like the European Union and Japan. The updated Nafta, which will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A., represents Mr. Trump’s biggest trade achievement to date, and it comes after more than a year of intense negotiations that frequently fell into personal rancor between Mr. Trump and the leaders of Canada and Mexico. Like some of Mr. Trump’s other accomplishments in business and government, the deal is partly a step forward and partly an exercise in rebranding. Canada will ease longstanding protections on its dairy market and provide access greater than what the United States would have gained through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty negotiated by President Barack Obama, from which Mr. Trump withdrew last year. The United States relented on its demand to eliminate an independent tariff dispute settlement system that Canada had said was a red line. Preserving it was a major concession for the United States, which had eliminated the mechanism, known as Chapter 19, as part of its deal with Mexico. The pact also makes a series of changes to areas like intellectual property and the digital economy, including protections for patents and domain names — all of which refresh Nafta, a 25-year-old pact that had become somewhat outmoded in the digital age. But many of these innovations were drawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included Canada and Mexico, and it prompted a senior Trump adviser to offer a rare endorsement of an Obama legacy achievement that Mr. Trump delighting in dismantling."

FBI To Expand Kavanaugh Probe, Perhaps

WH reportedly authorizes FBI to expand Kavanaugh investigation. The Hill: "The New York Times reported on Monday that the White House gave authorization to expand the investigation from an initial limited list of witnesses, provided that the review is completed by the end of the week. The FBI has already spoken with the four individuals it had been given permission to speak to, the newspaper reported. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Times report came shortly after President Trump insisted at a press conference that he wanted a 'comprehensive investigation' of the claims against Kavanaugh, as long as it's completed quickly. 'I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer,' Trump told reporters during a press conference announcing a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. 'Now with that being said, I’d like it go quickly,' he continued."

U.S. To Deny Visas To Same-Sex Partners

U.S. will no longer recognize same-sex domestic partners of foreign officials. ThinkProgress: "The Trump administration began denying visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees Monday, the latest chip at LGBTQ rights in the United States. The only way same-sex partners will be legally recognized and allowed to stay in the country moving forward is if the couple is married, regardless of what the laws in their home countries allow. The move is a reversal of a 2009 State Department directive that granted visas to the same-sex domestic partners of foreign workers. Couples will have only three months to make the decision to marry. After December 31, they will have to show proof of marriage or leave the country within 30 days. “As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners… seeking to join newly arrived U.N. officials must provide proof of marriage to eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change in such status,” the new guidance states. At least 10 U.N. employees are impacted by the change, meaning they must marry in the coming months if they want their partners to be able to stay with them. The policy change purports “to help ensure and promote equal treatment” for all couples. However, because the world does not treat all couples equally, the new directive means the United States will essentially be punishing people based on nationality. Only 12 percent of U.N. member countries — a total of 25 countries — recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples. In at least 70 others, homosexuality is criminalized."

Amazon Embraces $15 Minimum Wage After Criticism

Amazon announces $15 minimum wage for all US employees. CNN: "The change takes effect November 1 and applies to full-time, part-time and temporary workers. Amazon (AMZN) says the $15 minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees, plus 100,000 seasonal workers. 'We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,' said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO. 'We're excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.' The change applies to Whole Foods and all other subsidiary employees. Amazon also said its public policy team will begin lobbying for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009. 'We'll leave it to Congress and professionals to decide what the right number is,' Dave Clark, the company's senior vice president of worldwide operations, told CNN's Christine Romans. 'But for us, that number is $15.' The size and explosive growth of Amazon give the decision importance far beyond the hundreds of thousands of people who will benefit directly. Amazon is among the largest employers in the United States, and it has added more American jobs in the past decade than any other company."

Activists Disrupt EPA Hearings On 'Dirty Energy Scam'

Activists, politicians call on EPA to drop Trump plan to relax emissions standards for coal-fired power plants. Chicago Tribune: "Environmental and health advocates from across the country flocked to Chicago on Monday to speak out at the only public meeting on the Trump administration’s coal-friendly energy proposal. Groups gathered throughout the morning at the Metcalfe Federal Building to call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to abandon President Donald Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy proposal, which would relax emissions standards for coal-fired power plants. A half-hour into the hearing, about two dozen activists wearing shirts reading “Stop killing us” assembled in the front of the meeting room and began shouting, 'When people and climate are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!' EPA officials leading the meeting stepped into the hallway before calling for a 10-minute recess. Shortly after, two federal law enforcement officers warned protesters to leave and the demonstration dispersed. Later, more than 100 protesters went to Federal Plaza to rally. The Trump administration proposal was largely viewed by environmentalists as another attempt to prop up the withering coal industry, which is being supplanted by natural gas, a cheaper alternative that also emits less carbon dioxide. It also roused concerns as many cited an EPA analysis that acknowledged the pollutants given off from the Affordable Clean Energy rule could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths per year by 2030 and 15,000 cases of upper-respiratory problems."

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