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Jerusalem Issue Saw The United States Stand Alone

Manak Suri

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US Consulate in Jerusalem

2017 is a year Americans are unlikely to forget very easily and it’s all thanks to one man: Donald J. Trump. They welcomed the year 2017 amid deep controversy following the election of Mr. Trump as the 45th President of the USA. Since then, Mr. Trump has managed to maintain a spot in the headlines every now and then with a number of his decisions sparking several debates. Now, with the New Year looming large, Americans find their government alienated at the forefront of another controversy; the one that has followed the immensely criticized decision by the Trump government to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On December 6, Mr. Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, also signalling the move of the United States Embassy to the hugely controversial city from Tel Aviv. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital”, he said of the decision. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” One of the promises made by Trump as part of his campaign was to successfully broker a deal in the Middle East and bring an end to decades of conflict between Israel and Palestine. With the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he seems to be doing anything but fulfilling that promise.

Why is the issue of Jerusalem so contentious?

You may as well ask why the move is being given the attention that it has been receiving and what it means. To put it quite simply, the status of Jerusalem has remained unresolved in the context of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Till the Six-Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was controlled partly by Israel in the west and by Jordan in the east. During the war Israel occupied East Jerusalem, thereby obtaining complete control of the entire city. The Palestinians and the Arab world, along with many others in the international community recognized the move as an illegal occupation of East Jerusalem. Palestine also views East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Moreover, Old City in Jerusalem is an important religious site for Jews, Muslims as well as for Christians. Therefore, Jerusalem’s status has been a contentious issue both historically and religiously.

So where does the rest of the world stand?

What has followed since the decision of the United States is a demonstration by the rest of the world on how far they are willing to go against the US or anyone for that matter to condemn what they believe does not contribute to peace in the world. On December 18, 14 out of 15 members of the United Nations Security Council gave a green signal to a measure “expressing deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” Quite obviously, the US was the only country to veto the measure following which Turkey and Yemen took it upon themselves to call for an emergency session of the 193 members strong United Nations General Assembly.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US would be closely watching and “taking names” of those who voted against them. She went so far as to write to more than 180 countries that any vote in favour of the resolution would be taken personally by the President. Mr. Trump himself suggested withdrawal of billions of dollars of aid to countries who would vote against the US. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot,” he said. “We don’t care.” Even right before the voting took place, Haley threatened that the US would cut funding to the UN over the vote. The talk may have swayed some countries to its side which barely amounted to anything. 128 member countries voted in favour of the resolution and only 9 voted against it. Any consolation that the US received from the vote was 35 abstentions from some of its allies. By not voting at all, they neither criticized the move by the US, nor did they voice their support for the US on the issue, if any.

What the measure explicitly says is that any changes to Jerusalem’s status “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.” In addition, it “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem”, clearly targeting the US decision to move its embassy to the city.

How have the different parties involved reacted?

Ambassador Haley had the following to say of the result that saw the United States pretty much isolated on yet another international issue: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.” She added, “We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the UN, and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.” Regardless of the vote, Haley said the US Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority called Trump’s announcement a “crime” and expressed that he no longer desires the US to broker peace between them ad Israel. In addition, more than 50 countries with a majority of Muslim population signed a statement which declares that the United States has lost its role as a “sponsor of peace” in the Middle East region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, thanked Mr. Trump for his stance on the issue as well as the other countries that voted against the resolution. Also rejecting the measure, Mr. Netanyahu released a statement saying that “Israel rejects the UN resolution and at the same time expresses satisfaction with the high number of countries that did not vote for the resolution.”

The issue remains one which needs to be closely watched to ascertain what the repercussions will be once the decisions and actions of the US, the countries in the Middle East, and Israel play out in their entirety. The United States has already made a move to reduce the contribution of the country to the UN budget. “We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked, said Nikki Haley of the step, adding that they would look at ways to increase the governing body’s efficiency while protecting their own interests at the same time. At the same time, Guatemala has followed in the United States’ steps by deciding to move their embassy to Jerusalem as well. As 2018 approaches, will this prove to be the new year resolution that remains in focus for more than just the first few weeks of the year? At least the Palestinians will hope so.

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A student of economics with a keen eye for developments in the geopolitical sphere, Manak is a curious individual with a penchant for writing about anything that makes him ponder long enough.

Business

Is the US Housing Market Slowing Down?

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There are signs that the US housing market, buoyant for several years with prices soaring, is slowing down as even properties in popular ‘hot spots’ such as Seattle, parts of Texas and Silicon Valley are taking longer to sell and sometimes not making their asking prices.

Economists predict the overall gain for property prices across the US will only be five percent for 2018 and will be down to three percent in 2019. The rise of home improvements – well over $300 billion is being spent on various house remodeling projects per year – show Americans are staying put and improving their present home rather than moving.

Versatile, top quality home improvements and ‘add-ons’ such as attic and garage conversions, and easy-to-install storage such as weatherproof prefabricated sheds that can add more space in a matter of hours, are giving people the chance to increase space in and around their properties for a fraction of the costs of moving home.

Pricing and interest rate rises

What has slowed the market?

Accelerating house prices – they’ve finally outstripped house buyers’ ability to afford them; rises have mostly been fueled by hitherto low housing stock in hot markets such as California and the Miami area.

Interest rate rises – recent interest rate rises make it not only more difficult for buyers to afford the repayments on what is likely to be a high mortgage, but have caused confidence to dip as people wonder if more are on the way.

Not a full blown slump

Many analysts, including Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller – who predicted the ‘dot com bubble’ bursting back at the turn of the millennium – don’t predict a big downturn like that experienced during the financial crisis of 2008.

They’re saying it’s more a sign of demand naturally tailing off for a while as the market corrects itself and housing stock increases. It certainly has done in property hot spots such as Seattle where supply rose by well over 20% compared to late 2017.

Confidence has waned somewhat in the property market; even though the US economy is doing well only some 65% of Americans consider it a good time to buy – the lowest percentage since the world wide slump of 2008 when the property market was severely affected.

Certain areas such as Alabama are actually seeing property sales rise as these are areas that are still relatively affordable compared to the likes of California, where prices still make it hard for people to buy.

House builder stocks falling

An indication that all is not well in the housing market is the significant fall in homebuilding company stock values: overall stocks are down 21% this year, so very much in 2008 recession territory and worthy of caution.

Good for investors but less good for buyers

The lowering of prices and the rise of housing stock makes it good news for investors as properties offering decent yields may become reality again.

Ironically, a strong economy allied to low unemployment – the lowest since the late 1960s – increases the risk of interest rates continuing to rise as the Federal Reserve tries to keep inflation under control. That has the consequence that confidence is lower for potential house buyers, as is their ability to buy.

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America’s Aging Workforce: A Call For Change

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You don’t need us to tell you that people are living longer. What’s more, advances in medical treatments keep us fighting fit into our later lives. With medicine as it stands, even illnesses such as cancer aren’t enough to knock us down. Instead, we bounce back, often fitter than we were before. Such is the miracle of modern medicine.

No one can deny that this is a positive change and something we should all be thankful for. But, it’s also impossible to ignore that these improvements are at the root of some issues. America’s aging population is nothing new. For years now, we’ve seen baby boomers, born between 1946-1964, forming the largest generation in America. As it stands, 75 million American citizens fall into this category.

As a result, strains have been placed on Medicare, social security, and even our workforces. Early retirement packages start as young as 62, but many are now able to work later. What’s more, inadequate pensions leave many with no other choice.

And, there are obvious issues with an aging workplace. While there are benefits to elderly workers, there are also negatives. Of course, the majority of the issues come about from workplaces targeted towards the young. So, what needs to change to help our aging workers? Let’s take a look.

New health and safety regulations

As it stands, health and safety regulations aren’t serving the aging workforce. In the past, workplace fatalities have concerned younger workers or an even mixture across the ages. But, statistics from Minnesota fatalities suggest that things are changing, with more elderly workers at risk of fatal or long-term injuries. In fact, at least half of workplace deaths involved those who were 55 and over. And, these numbers look set to skyrocket in the coming decade. In some ways, you could argue that these statistics are inevitable. After all, workers in these age ranges now far outweigh those in any other. But, the figures are still worrying. What’s more, those over the age of 65 are thought to take longer to recover. Statistics show that older workers took an average 14 days to recover, while younger workers took 4-9. This is terrible news for everyone, as it means lost workload and lost earnings. The injured individual would be within their rights to contact lawyers such as Strickland, Agner & Associates to cover the financial burden of their time off. But, this would again leave employers out of pocket, which ultimately doesn’t help anyone involved.

Instead, it might be time for workplaces to reconsider their health and safety measures. With elderly workers in mind, issues such as visibility and hearing should be a priority. Bear in mind, too, that a small trip could do real damage for an older worker. As such, it’s more important than ever to keep walkways clear and safe at all times. These changes won’t be difficult to implement. So, there’s no excuse for workforces not to get behind this.

A focus on employee wellness

Employee wellness should always be a priority. Any employer knows that allowances must be in place for workers with disabilities. The law states that they provide wheelchair friendly desks, easy access to all areas, and even parking spaces close to the building. And, all these allowances could help to make life easier for an aging workforce. Admittedly, going too far here could cause insult. But, it’s hard to ignore that a 65-year-old worker will struggle to make their way up three flights of stairs to reach the office. As such, you should provide options like elevators and parking spaces nearby. Keep this understated, and let workers make their own choices about whether to use such benefits. But, you can be sure that having the option will go a long way towards reducing any discomfort.

Acknowledge the limitations of age

This is a tricky matter to traverse. On the one hand, discrimination should be avoided at all costs. And, that includes age discrimination. At the same time, it’s impossible to ignore that older workers won’t be as able to complete incredibly strenuous jobs. What’s more, they could cause themselves injuries while attempting it. As such, it’s difficult to know how employers could best approach this issue.

It may be that jobs should be at a worker’s discretion. Nobody knows our limits as well as we do. As such, it should be made clear that elderly workers can approach managers if they aren’t up to certain tasks. They shouldn’t be reproached or made to feel uncomfortable. Instead, bosses should be accommodating here. After this has happened once, they’ll know not to give the individual in question that job again. Rather than being a matter of discrimination, communications like these are a sign of a healthy and fair workplace, which accommodates for age without making assumptions.

Acknowledge the benefits of age

On the other end of the scale, it’s also crucial for workplaces to acknowledge the benefits with come from an aging team. Workers who have been in the field for their whole lives can bring a load of experience to a role. While not all 65+ employees will be as physically able as young candidates, you can be sure they’ll know a lot more. Why not make the most of these benefits by entrusting our older workers to train our young ones? This would save managers both time and money, and ensure workers learn from someone who’s done the job for years. What’s more, those older workers are sure to appreciate the chance to pass on their knowledge. It’s the best of both worlds and is a setup which is sure to suit everyone.

In conclusion

Accommodating an aging workforce isn’t difficult. It doesn’t cost employers, or create unnecessary work. In fact, small shifts in thinking and operations are all it takes to get this right. And, given that this is an issue which will only become more prevalent, it makes sense that all workplaces get on top of this sooner rather than later.

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Economy

What Can The US Govt Do To Help The Stock Market?

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Unless you live under a rock, you will know the stock market has plunged this past week. ‘Plunged’ may be an understatement as the Dow fell by 1,500 points, a new intraday record. But, there is no room for congratulations on laying this new ground, not even for the Trump administration. Remember, this is a government that waxed lyrical about the state of the Dow Jones hours before the slide.

Although the White House is now nothing if not unpredictable, top members of the cabinet will be looking to strike back. The economy is Trump’s ace in the hole, and it seems to be tanking hard. But, the stock market isn’t a leaky faucet which you can tighten in a couple of seconds. So, what can the WH do to ease the drop?

Here is a selection of tools at their disposal, and a wrench isn’t one.

Do Nothing

Absolutely nothing if the past behavior of the Trump government is any indication. But, this isn’t out of sheer laziness or lack of understanding this time. It’s because the slide is, in part, due to a lack of confidence in the market. Investors expect interest rates and inflation to play a massive role in the not-too-distant future and are pulling out. So, doing nothing may be the key to the door for the White House. At least, it’s what Joe LaVorgna, chief economist for the Americas as Natixis, believes. Speaking to CNBC, he thinks it’s a move against the Fed because it isn’t aggressive enough, which has led to a sell-off. And, one pertinent thing to remember is that there wasn’t a single piece of info that led to the exodus. Even though it resembles the 2010 Crash, the details aren’t the same.

Speak To The Fed

Trump is by no means an advocate of government intervention unless it involves scandal. However, he may change his mind in this instance when a simple solution is at hand. As LaVorgna said, there are lots of investors that think this slump is down to the Fed and that it isn’t doing its job. Why? It’s because they are doing nothing to allay people’s’ fears. Interest rates, as well as inflation, are the big issues as the money-makers dread the increasing regulation. After all, reports suggest hourly earnings rose by 2.9% last Friday before the incident. Simply asking the bank to calm the situation could be the easiest and cleanest route for everyone. But, don’t cross your fingers because the Trump WH doesn’t do straightforward.

Point To The Facts

No one likes to side with this government unless they are sycophants, but the stats are there for everyone to see. The market spiraled out of control as investor confidence hit an all-time low, yet there wasn’t much evidence to suggest why. After all, bond yields on the day were lower than before, which should have eased fears. Plus, there is the position of the S&P. Although it isn’t as reputable as before 2010, it’s still a decent indicator and it is trading as normal. In January, the moves were almost identical to the ones made in December. In layman’s terms, it means the market isn’t going to have to analyze a year of returns. The govt doesn’t have the credibility to point to the facts after its assault on the truth, but they can gesture to the likes of Michael Yoshikami.

Confidence Boost

The White House will undoubtedly act as if nothing is wrong, and they may be right. However, even if this is just a recalibration, there is a mental element. Trading and investing require strong-minded people to spot patterns and take calculated risks. No one is going to do that while the Dow swings up and down like a yo-yo. His only option is to instill confidence back into the system that he dearly treasures. Again, speaking to the Reserve would be a start as it may prevent it from tightening the belt. But, there are other options too. One which experts agree on is the element of AI-led investment software. Currently, the rise of technology means there’s a gap in trading which is being exploited by these programs. As a result, the anomalies are leading to drops such as the storm that is currently hitting the market. Only 10% of stocks are traded by individuals, and that is a problem because computers are aggressive.

Increase Transparency

You may have noticed that there is a Mexican standoff between investors and the government. Stood there with their guns in hand, no one wants to shoot first. The reason is simple: a lack of communication. All of the above has happened because of a perceived hike in interest rates and inflation, but there are no guarantees. As in 2008, the barriers surrounding the stock market are preventing people from making informed decisions. ‘Make America Great Again’ is the slogan, but Trump may want to look to Europe for help. MiFID II Trading Solutions is an EU regulation that tries to make markets open, transparent and resilient. Regulation isn’t the government’s strong point, especially as the rise in the Dow as a result of market freedom. However, a lucid program could make the situation clearer for all parties.

Close Down The Shutdown

If you aren’t aware, again, where have you been living? The US government shutdown for the second time this year on Friday morning, and is a huge problem. The men and women that have to work out how to deal with a national problem work in the Capitol building. Without them doing their jobs, there isn’t going to be a quick fix. And, it isn’t as if Trump himself burns the midnight oil according to reports detailing his daily schedule. The US needs all areas of government up and running and working together if it is going to get out of this mess with any credibility. While the shutdown is still in process, the odds get longer and longer.

What are your views? Is this a big deal or is it just a flash in the pan?

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