Over the next decade, Walmart's $350 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing has the potential to:
- Support more than 750,000 new American jobs.
- Avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions by working with suppliers to shift to U.S. manufacturing.
- Advance the growth of U.S.-based suppliers.
- Provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.
Scots go to the polls this week to vote in their first parliamentary election since Brexit. We already know that the incumbent Scottish National Party will win most seats. The broader question, however, is whether its majority will be big enough to demand another independence referendum.
Almost seven years ago, Scotland turned down independence in a plebiscite by a 10-point margin. But that was before the entire United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016 — against the wishes of most people in Scotland.
Many Scots felt they got cheated in the 2014 referendum because a lot of them voted to remain in the UK precisely to also stay in the EU. The post-Brexit political chaos that followed further boosted nationalist sentiment in Scotland, and the outcome of Thursday's vote will measure how much support the SNP really has to demand to have another go at breaking away from the UK.
COVID has dominated the campaign in Scotland, with independence lurking in the background. One of the reasons that the SNP is riding so high in the polls is Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's widely praised pandemic response strategy, which resulted in Scotland reporting less deaths per capita than the UK average. Perceptions of her competence were often compared with those of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, already unpopular with Scots before COVID and whose often-haphazard approach to the crisis has made his approval ratings there plummet.
Many Scots believe they would have handled COVID even better without the British government meddling in their affairs. Support for Scottish independence has surged in particular among women, in large part due to Sturgeon's much stronger approval rating with females than her estranged predecessor Alex Salmond.
With about half of Scots currently in favor of leaving the UK, Sturgeon seized on the opportunity by proposing in March a draft law to hold a second plebiscite. Unsurprisingly, her move was lambasted by opposition unionist parties, who accused the chief minister of politicizing the pandemic to drum up support for her separatist cause. Now she says ending COVID is the immediate priority.
For London, however, the election is all about Scottish independence. An outright SNP majority in Holyrood is all but assured to encourage Scottish nationalists to demand another referendum. That'll set up the center-left Sturgeon on a collision course with the center-right Johnson, who has called the 2014 vote a "once-in-a-generation" event.
The British PM has a lot on the line with Scotland's election. His predecessor David Cameron took a huge gamble on the 2014 referendum: the result encouraged him to agree to the Brexit vote, which then ended Cameron's political career. That's what Johnson faces if his government loses a second Scottish plebiscite. The problem is, will he be able to resist the immense political pressure that an overwhelming SNP majority would put on him to grant a post-Brexit independence vote that most Scots want?
More immediately, Johnson's Tories are running neck-in-neck for second place with the opposition Labour Party, and coming in third would be a major embarrassment for the PM. Labour leader Keir Starmer is against holding a fresh independence vote in the near term, but unlike Johnson is open to the possibility later on.
Northern Ireland is also watching closely. Northern Ireland also voted against leaving the EU — albeit by a slimmer margin than Scotland — but popular support for reunification with the independent Republic of Ireland is rising due to growing discontent over the economic fallout of Brexit and demographic trends that favor Catholic republicans over Protestant unionists. If the Scots get another referendum soon, the Northern Irish will be next in line.
Finally, Brussels has a stake too. If Scotland were to eventually vote in a referendum to break away from the UK, one of the main reasons would be so it could rejoin the EU. Regaining membership, however, would not be a quick process, despite Scotland having been part of the EU — as a UK territory — from more than 40 years.
That's because it would require consent from all 27 EU member states, among which Spain could possibly veto to avoid setting a precedent for Catalonia. But as long as the Scots don't vote without permission from London, as Catalans did in 2017, Edinburgh may be able to negotiate a compromise — probably economic concessions — with Madrid that doesn't give hope to Catalan separatists.
The new Brexit. Whether or not a referendum is called soon, the likely outcome of Thursday's election means that talk of Scotland's independence will dominate UK politics for the next few years — as Brexit did from 2016 onward. Those who warned that Brexit would result in a breakup of the UK up were clearly onto something.
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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week. Got a Quick Take for you. Wanted to talk a little bit about Afghanistan. The United States has announced, and not for the first time, that we will be leaving, ending the 20-year war. Detractors calling it The Forever War, and with good reason: it is the longest war that the United States has in its history ever fought, spending over a trillion dollars conservatively. Estimated well over 2000 American servicemen and women dead, over 40,000 Afghan civilians dead, and well over 70% of Americans want out, want to end the war. So you can understand why President Biden wanted to make that decision. You understand why former President Trump wanted to make that decision.
There was a thoughtful interagency process in the United States, and I will say that given gains made by the Taliban on the ground in Afghanistan, presently at the peak in terms of territorial expansion over the past years, there was a feeling among those advising Biden, that there was not a lot of confidence that the present levels of military engagement on the ground was sufficient to prevent the Taliban from taking over and the Afghan government from collapsing over the course of a Biden administration. So in other words, the decision being put to him really wasn't about: do you want to stay or do you want to leave? It was more, do you want to leave or are you prepared to expand, to have another surge of American and other troops to help ensure that the Taliban doesn't actually take over the country? And the answer, in relatively short order, was no.
I want to be clear, I'm personally glad that we're able to leave. This has been enormously painful and expensive and dangerous process. It feels unending. We killed bin Laden. We degraded Al Qaeda. Those were the proximate goals for the war, but the idea of building up the Afghan government and leaving stability was always a much taller order than the United States appeared to have stomach for and would have been an immense challenge, irrespective of how much resource the Americans put on the ground.
But I am worried that we're leaving our allies in the lurch and I want to dig into that a little bit. I mentioned that there was a thoughtful interagency process inside the United States of whether the Americans would stay or go, but that was not a discussion had with American coalition partners in NATO who have been shouldering the majority of the burden in the war in Afghanistan heretofore. The coalition together has more troops on the ground than the United States. They've lost, they've suffered more casualties than the United States. And perhaps most importantly, many of them have much bigger domestic concerns about radical Islamic terrorism - think about France, for example, think about Germany, think about the U.K - than the United States, where today terrorism is mostly domestic, homegrown, and it's mostly white nationalist.
We told them we were leaving and they better get on board, and of course, publicly they are, because if the world superpower and their ally is out, then, well, what choice do they really have? But they're really not happy about that and I've had that conversation with a number of allies at this point who are basically saying, "Look, there's no way for us to maintain our presence if the Americans aren't there. There's no way for us to continue economic support given how corrupt the local government is, because if the Americans aren't there on the ground overseeing that process. There's no way to make sure the money's going to where it needs to go. It's going to be wasted." So the view is that this goes from a relatively robust process to one that really falls apart in short order, and the likelihood the Taliban takes over in the coming months to years goes up.
Now, again, I'm not saying that I think that should make this Forever War continue for 10, 20, 30 years. But I do believe that the United States owes it to America's allies to engage in that discussion collectively before we make a decision. I get the point that the Quad is the shiny new object. The United States is much more concerned about China than it is about what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan. The Japanese are seen in many ways as the most critical ally in that regard. First head of state visit to the United States was indeed Prime Minister Suga. They have been underprioritized for a long time, I would argue, appropriately so. Third largest economy, largest economy in the world, allied with the United States and really need the Americans. I get it.
But America's most durable alliance, as much as it is outdated in geographic orientation, still is very strong, we're very trusted partners and that's NATO. And most trusted partners of America around the world remain a part of NATO and are contributing more to NATO over time. We should stay committed, we should stay seen to be committed. First, that means the decision making process on something that is in the interest of the United States to leave, maybe we need to compromise more because of the interests of our allies. We certainly want to work with them more closely. And also, since they're going to be bearing the brunt if the Taliban takes over, they're going to bear the brunt if radical Islamic terror becomes more of a threat to their homelands, then the United States in advance of that, needs to be working collectively with them to help ensure that our fight on counter-terrorism with them is prioritizing their needs to a greater degree.
I think that we have to be willing to admit that Biden as a president, his administration is much friendlier to the allies on balance, is liked, is preferred by most, almost all of the allies on balance. But privately, a lot of the allies are saying that American unilateralism remains, in substance, if not in form on a bunch of key issues, and this was one that I think we booted a bit.
So it's difficult, right? This is not necessarily a quick post tweet to talk about all of these issues because there's a lot going on. I can understand why everyone around this has been deeply conflicted. There are no good answers, certainly. But I think we might've been able to do this one a little bit better. Anyway, that's a bit for me. Everybody be safe. Avoid fewer people, at least if you're in the U.S., and increasingly Europe, they're getting up to speed on vaccine rollout too very quickly, and I'm glad to see it and hopefully the rest of the world soon, soon, soon. Talk to y'all. Be good.
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There are many differences between America's two main political parties, but the most fundamental is this: Democrats say government can and should act boldly to improve people's lives and strengthen the nation. Republicans insist that government itself poses the greatest threat to individual liberty and the nation's lasting competitive strength. The past 100 days make crystal-clear which side of that argument President Joe Biden lives on.
Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s seemed to finally settle this question in favor of less government. Bill Clinton, the first post-Reagan Democrat in the White House, famously told Congress in 1996 that "the era of big government is over." A generation later, outside of his ambitious healthcare reform plan, fellow Democrat Barack Obama was notably cautious on this question.
But the pandemic has given Biden an opportunity to show government can go big. Historically big.
Biden has focused almost entirely on two priorities: COVID vaccinations and economic recovery. Thanks in part to groundwork laid by the Trump administration, the president's focus on the pandemic has helped the United States become a vaccine success story. Biden first got a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan through Congress. Later he proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill and the so-called American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion investment which includes both tax breaks and deep investment in education.
Biden's pandemic stimulus plan was about two and a half times larger than the plan his former boss Obama proposed in response to the global financial crisis despite much larger Democratic majorities in both houses in 2009. In fact, no US president has proposed anything on this scale since the days of World War II and the Marshall Plan. Biden has also announced his intention to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest in US history, by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks later this year.
Politically, this strategy is working. Polling from Fox News, CNN, NBC, Washington Post-ABC, and Monmouth all give Biden solid favorability scores and place support for his plans in the mid-60s. A recent CBS/YouGov poll found that 77 percent support the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Investors seem to like these plans too. The US stock market closed Biden's first 100 days in office with the strongest start to a presidential term since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. All of this encourages Democrats to hope that their core voters, weary of their caution, will reward their boldness.
But Biden knows it would be foolish to declare that the era of "big government is over" is now over, and his ambitious push is less a sign of strength than of urgency. Unlike under similarly ambitious presidents of the past, like Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, Democrats have razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress. Clinton (1994) and Obama (2010) saw their party suffer blowout losses in their first midterm elections. If they lose control of either house in November 2022, Biden's window of opportunity will close until at least 2025.
The new president knows he hasn't won over GOP lawmakers or voters — just 11 percent of Republicans think he's doing a good job — and that the electoral college and control of state legislatures give Republicans important and lasting electoral advantages.
There are also distractions and dangers ahead. Much of what Biden has proposed so far can be achieved without Republican support, but that's not true for gun restrictions or immigration, a subject that Republican voters consider a priority and which Biden hasn't done much about. Racism poses challenges well beyond the powers of any policymaker, and even passage of a new voting rights act will be a heavy lift. And the withdrawal from Afghanistan will not go smoothly if Taliban forces become more aggressive before US troops have left.
Presidential terms are judged on what is accomplished over 1,461 days, not 100. Much of what Biden has proposed remains in the blueprint stage, and the end of the pandemic will leave many Americans less reliant on government action.
Bottom line: The debate over government's proper role in American life has raged since the early days of the republic, and that fight will continue. Biden has months, not years, to make his case for a more activist federal government. Eras in American politics don't last as long as they used to, and Republicans are waiting anxiously in the wings.
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May 03, 2021
Lebanon's economic implosion and currency crisis have caused food prices to surge in recent months. Lebanon imports around 80 percent of the food it consumes, and so the sharp depreciation of the lira has made some staples five times more expensive than when the economic crisis first hit in October 2019. This year's Ramadan will be very painful for many Lebanese, as the cost of an Iftar meal — which Muslims break their fast with each day — has increased a whopping 300 percent in just two years. We take a look at how food prices have risen as a result of the plunging value of Lebanon's currency over the last 12 months.
May 03, 2021
Why is the world ignoring hard-hit Brazil? In response to the COVID crisis pummeling India, foreign governments quickly mobilized: the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand, and the EU have all sent much-needed oxygen tanks, medical supplies, and materials to make vaccines. But now many analysts — and Brazilians — are questioning why the same goodwill hasn't reached Brazil, where the death tally of 410,000 (the world's second highest) is a much larger percentage of the population. Brasilia's pleas for help have, they say, often fallen on deaf ears. One explanation is that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has simply made himself too many enemies: he has not only dismissed the severity of the pandemic but has also insulted much of the international community whose help Brazil, which relies heavily on medical imports, needs. Who could forget that Bolsonaro called French president Emmanuel Macron's wife "truly ugly," and questioned US President Joe Biden's electoral win? But in recent months, Bolsonaro's administration has also chided China (his economy minister recently said China had "invented the virus" and others have mocked Chinese-made vaccines), endangering ties with Brasilia's main supplier of vaccines. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by contrast, has certainly been a divisive and confrontational figure at home, but he has maintained warm relations with governments whose help his country desperately needs.
Salvadoran strongman confirms worst fears: When president Nayib Bukele's New Ideas party won a decisive victory in legislative polls in February to secure a two-thirds supermajority, many feared it would embolden the 39-year-old Bukele, who has already shown strong anti-democratic tendencies, to tighten his grip on power. And that's precisely what happened this past weekend when Bukele's party voted to fire five top supreme court judges and replace them with party loyalists. Bukele then proceeded to dismiss the attorney general after the judiciary deemed the congressional vote "unconstitutional." Shortly after, the very online Bukele, who has clashed with the nascent Biden administration over El Salvador's increasing authoritarian drift, tweeted that the judges had been "FIRED," by the people, when in fact, the events resembled what some analysts have described as a "Coup d'état." This development is likely to deepen tensions with Washington, which needs Bukele's cooperation to manage surging immigration from the Northern Triangle countries, but which has also made the defense of democracy a foreign policy priority.
Will the US share vaccines? The Biden administration faces intense criticism that the US is hoarding vaccines at a moment when COVID is ravaging India, Brazil, and many other countries, threatening Africa, and forcing new restrictions in Europe. In response, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced on Sunday that the US would enter talks with the World Trade Organization on how to "get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared." But the process isn't as easy as it might appear. Officials at vaccine-maker Pfizer say the company applied for approval in India "months ago," and that the work of Indian regulators needs to be expedited. Plus, even if intellectual property rights are waived in response to this deadly emergency, there are shortages of material and formidable logistical problems that would still have to be solved.
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Hard Numbers: Afghan carnage, Biden's (small) steps to family reunification, UK and Israel's shrinking COVID caseloads, BJP loses West Bengal race
May 03, 2021
27: At least 27 people, mostly students, were killed in a suspected Taliban attack Friday outside Kabul. The truck bombing came just days before May 1, the deadline for a US troop withdrawal originally set by the Trump administration. The Biden White House recently pushed that back to September, angering the Taliban.
4: The Biden administration will reunite four families in the US who were separated in 2017 under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. There's still work to do: since 2017, around 5,500 children have been separated from their parents while trying to enter the US.
0.2: The UK and Israel have two of the highest per capita vaccination rates in the world, and the results are paying off: both have recently recorded a 7-day average positivity rate below 0.2 percent, amongst the lowest in the world.
80: Despite a heavy push by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, the PM's BJP party won just 80 legislative seats in the 294-seat assembly of West Bengal, a state currently run by a prominent BJP critic. Experts say that Modi's massive election rallies in West Bengal, India's fourth most populous state, contributed to the current explosion of COVID-19.
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In his first 100 days, Biden has issued more executive orders than any president since FDR. 40 of them by mid-April. His administration exceeded (modestly set) goals for vaccine distribution, pushed a record $1.9 trillion stimulus plan through Congress, rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and announced an end to the war in Afghanistan. Biden's approval rating of 53% at the 100-day milestone, though lower than those of Obama and Bush, is 12 points higher than Trump's was at this point. But there are clear signs the next several months will be a much bumpier ride, with challenges from immigration to healthcare to a deeply divided Congress.
Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days
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