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$1 NEWS // MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5
Donald Trump faces an unprecedented penalty in his New York civil business fraud trial, in which a final verdict is expected later this month. (AP)
An Associated Press report on why Trump’s case stands out:
Trump's real estate empire might be ordered to dissolve as a punishment for him fraudulently inflating his wealth.
According to an AP analysis, only a dozen cases in nearly 70 years have seen such a severe penalty under New York’s anti-fraud law, with Trump's case being unique because it lacks demonstration of financial harm to specific victims or the public.
Columbia University law professor Eric Talley: “Is he getting his just desserts because of the fraud, or because people don’t like him?”
Ink Stained Wretches podcast co-host Eliana Johnson on the AP’s story: “It's so rare that you see anywhere in the mainstream media, any coverage of the fact that Trump, while he's a jerk, a lout, crude, whatever he may be, is actually being held to some kind of a different standard.”
Another development: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis admitted last week she had a relationship with a prosecutor she appointed to an election interference case against Trump.
In the first 11 months of 2023, over 31,000 Chinese citizens were detained crossing into the U.S. from Mexico illegally, a big increase from the previous decade's average of roughly 1,500 per year. (CNN)
How are they getting here? Ecuador, which does not require visas for Chinese passport holders, saw over 45,000 Chinese nationals enter in the first 11 months of 2023, up from around 13,000 in 2022. The cost for migrants making their own way from South and Central America to the U.S. starts at around $5,000, more than a third of a Chinese factory worker's average annual salary. Chinese migrants typically cross into Colombia from Ecuador, then face perilous journeys through the Darien Gap and other challenging routes northward, often targeted by cartels and criminals.
Why are they coming? China’s economy is growing at its slowest rate in 40 years and urban youth unemployment in China reached record levels in 2022. Many migrants say they’re fed up with crackdowns on free speech and civil society under leader Xi Jinping. The number of Chinese seeking political asylum globally rose sharply during Xi's rule, from nearly 25,000 in 2013 to over 120,000 in the first six months of 2023.
Many people predicted the COVID-19 pandemic online shopping surge would permanently change our habits and make brick and mortar stores obsolete, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. (Axios)
A new report from Cushman & Wakefield Research:
The national shopping center vacancy rate fell to 5.3% in Q4 2023, the lowest since 2007.
The demand for retail spaces was driven by a 2.7% spike in real consumer spending and real retail spending increasing 3.2% from November 2022 to November 2023.
There were 769 net retail store openings in 2023, a 50% decrease from 2022 but marking the first two-year period of net openings since 2013-2014.
A trend in the retail sector: “[Many] shoppers are spending more of their budget on essentials like groceries, personal care and rent, leaving less income for discretionary items like furniture, sporting goods and apparel.”
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, announced Wednesday it would be opening 150 new stores over the next five years. That’s a reversal of the company’s strategy in 2016, when it started to slow down new store openings and shifted to online retail to compete with Amazon.
While the quality of life gap between black and white Americans has narrowed over the past decade, there are still big disparities, according to new research. (Fortune)
A new report from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility:
It could take more than 300 years for black homeownership rates to reach parity with white homeownership rates at the current rate of progress.
About 30% of black Americans live in the nation’s 12 largest urban centers, which offer higher incomes but also greater inequality and higher living costs.
Black suburbanites have higher incomes, life expectancies and are better educated, but less than 12% of black Americans live in the suburbs.
McKinsey estimates a 20-year-long affordable housing plan to reduce the homeownership gap could cost between $1.7 trillion to $2.4 trillion.
Big picture, this hits on a fierce debate going on in America today about equity and how far we should go to achieve it. The issue has flared up in schools (controversies over “critical race theory”), colleges (affirmative action) and the workplace (diversity, equity and inclusion trainings and ESG investing). 52% of Americans (with solid majorities of whites and Republicans) say the country has made a great deal or a fair amount of progress on racial equality in the last 60 years. But 52% (with solid majorities of blacks and Democrats) also say efforts to ensure racial equality haven’t gone far enough.
El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele has dramatically reduced the violent crime rate in his country since he was elected in 2019, but his methods, which include sweeping crackdowns on gang members and suspensions of civil liberties, are controversial. (Bloomberg)
Bukele’s policies have led to the highest incarceration rate in the world: El Salvador's prison population has increased to 100,000 in less than two years, representing 1.6% of its 6.3 million citizens. Also, El Salvador ranks near the bottom of Latin American countries when it comes to civil liberties, per the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Bukele’s bending/breaking the rules: He’s running for a second consecutive presidential term, even though six articles of El Salvador’s constitution prohibit it.
The economics have been good: El Salvador's bonds returned 114% in 2023, the best performance in the developing world.
Salvadorans love Bukele: According to the 2023 Latinobarómetro poll, no other Latin American country’s citizens are happier with their democracy and Bukele holds an approval rating of about 90%.
Bloomberg’s Lima, Peru bureau chief Marcelo Rochebraun on a recent podcast: “You're suspending right of assembly, the right to go out. But people in territories controlled by gangs will tell you that they don't have that freedom to begin with, so whether the government suspends it or not does not impact necessarily the freedom that they have. That is why we see in different countries in Latin America these attitudes where people feel that the government should be able to encroach more on civil rights in the name of security, and they point to El Salvador as sort of a successful example. There are many caveats to that, but a very important one is how long can that go on for? How long is it healthy to give the government so much power?”
Some U.S. conservatives say we should put less emphasis on civil rights to allow tougher crime-fighting measures. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., controversially called for federal troops to be mobilized against violent protesters in 2020. Other Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have praised Bukele’s policies.
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