US President Joe Biden has linked Russia’s offensive in Ukraine with the record number of refugees worldwide reported earlier by the UN.
In a statement on the occasion of World Refugee Day published by the White House on Monday, Biden said that “as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine we recently reached a grim milestone.” He added that “according to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 100 million people are now forcibly displaced, more than at any other time in history.”
Established in 1950, the Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides aid and human rights assistance to refugees and also keeps track of statistics on displaced persons. It reported back in May that “the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record.”
Biden also used the opportunity to heap praise on the US for hosting more than 80,000 Afghans over the past year, as well as providing “temporary safe haven to tens of thousands of Ukrainians.”
According to UNHCR data, there were 5,137,933 Ukrainian refugees recorded across Europe as of June 16. Of those, 1,230,800 had crossed into Russia, 1,169,497 had entered Poland, 780,000 had fled to Germany, with the rest spread among other European nations.
UN figures for Afghanistan indicate that “some 3.4 million people are currently displaced,” with 2,069,703 Afghan refugees registered in five neighboring nations by late May 2022. US-led forces withdrew from the country late last August, with the Taliban soon taking over all of the country.
Meanwhile, on the same day the White House released Biden’s statement, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian posted a tweet captioned “The Persecutor of our times. #HumanRights.” It features a medley of photos that appear to juxtapose US service members with injured civilians in some Middle Eastern country or countries. The footnote below clarifies that “Since 2001, the war U.S. provoked in the Middle East have [sic] killed 900,000 people, including about 335,000 civilians, and displaced tens of millions.”
A report by the UNHCR estimated that there were around 1.6 million Iraqi refugees and 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Iraq in 2010 – one year before US troops withdrew from the country. Washington launched its operation back in 2003, claiming that it had evidence then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The US eventually had to acknowledge that its intelligence had been flawed, as it failed to find any such weapons in the country.
Many are still repulsed by the monstrous actions of Salvador Ramos who brutally gunned down nineteen students and two teachers in the nation’s second-deadliest mass shooting.
This act of barbarity has rightly aroused intense emotions, but emotional responses to mass shootings won’t make them less frequent. In the aftermath of a mass shooting, the knee-jerk response is to lobby for more aggressive gun control, and let’s be realistic: even conservative supporters of the Second Amendment are sympathetic to these recommendations because no sane person wants a deranged individual to murder innocent children.
Nevertheless, emotional outbursts must be tempered by logic. Critics surmise that stringent measures will curb gun crimes; however, the evidence that stricter gun laws reduce gun crimes is far from conclusive. In the United States, New York and Chicago have high homicide rates despite punitive gun laws, whereas places like Maine and Vermont, with high rates of gun ownership and lax gun laws, respectively, have relatively low rates of gun violence.
The failure to adequately dissect data on gun-related deaths has created a storm of confusion because key facts are often omitted in public debates. Although gun control is framed in the context of raising the threshold for gun ownership to prevent homicides, the reality is that suicides account for a substantial percentage of gun-related deaths. In 2018, firearm suicide comprised 49.3 percent of total firearm deaths, and white men were the primary victims. However, homicides induced by firearms were the highest in the black male population.
Victims of suicide regularly suffer from mental health challenges that lead them to kill themselves. So, the failure to address mental health problems is the real culprit, rather than guns. Additionally, even if gun control makes it harder for people with mental health troubles to obtain guns, this would not prevent deaths because they can always use other means to commit suicide. Moreover, discriminating against mentally ill people when deciding to grant firearms would be futile, since most mentally ill people are unlikely to be offenders. In fact, psychiatrist Eric B. Elbogen has bluntly stated that social ills compound the severity of mental illness.
“If a person has a severe mental illness, (they) may have other risk factors for violent behavior,” he notes. “So, it may not be mental illness that is driving the violence at all, but rather factors like having been abused as a child, being unemployed, or living in a high-crime neighborhood.”
Neither would stricter regulations put a dent in black homicide rates. Criminals procure guns from the black market, corrupt dealers, and fellow criminals. According to the Department of Justice, 43 percent of offenders secure weapons from the black market and only 0.8 percent of criminals acquire firearms from gun shows. Because criminals are so adept at identifying cracks in the system to purchase guns, adding additional layers of regulation would fail to stem gun crimes and limit gang-related mass shootings. And notwithstanding the hype surrounding school shootings, gang-related incidents are more frequent.
Likewise, another blow to the gun control lobby is background checks’ failure to avert shootings. One study published in the Annals of Epidemiology concludes that the implementation of such policies “was not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate … in California.”
For Massachusetts, the evidence is quite similar, with research not only revealing that background checks’ impact on gun violence is unclear but also that the denial of firearms licenses has no appreciable impact on violent crimes. Determining the probability that one will commit violent crimes based on a background check is a mammoth task. Some mass shooters have a track record of delinquency, but having a record does not automatically predict that someone will attack a school. Furthermore, mass shooters are usually isolated individuals, so because we lack data on their innermost thoughts, it’s quite difficult to predict the next mass shooter.
Even more interesting is that despite the media’s emphasis on mass shootings, they account for a measly 0.5 percent of gun fatalities. Most mass shootings are a consequence of domestic disputes. Family-breakdown denialists may be unwilling to confront the issue, but family instability is a prominent driver of school shootings. Children raised in dysfunctional families are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior and abuse the law, so it is unsurprising that most mass shooters are victims of family instability.
Based on media accounts, the Uvalde shooter, Salvador Ramos, came from a broken home and felt unloved by his father. Due to these feelings of resentment they harbor, mass shooters have an intense desire to achieve notoriety by punishing other people. Gun violence is a symptom of a larger problem: family breakdown. By fixing the family, we can substantially reduce gun violence and other plagues. However, doing so requires an overhaul of our present culture that belittles the significance of marriage and family stability.
But in the short term, we can offer a suggestion to tame the lethality of mass shootings. If schools were to beef up security by training teachers and other officials in the art of marksmanship, then prospective school shooters would hesitate before attacking innocent children. Mass shootings are more likely in gun-free zones because the threat of retaliation is lower. So obviously, mass shooters are going to target places like schools and movie theaters, where people are unlikely to be armed.
This idea might sound unpalatable, but it is a better option than pursuing insensible gun control policies. Maybe Americans should study the abysmal failure of gun control in Jamaica to appreciate why gun control doesn’t work: in 2016, Jamaica established the Firearms Licensing Authority to inhibit the flow of illicit weapons, yet in 2021, Jamaica was described as the most murderous country in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Unscrupulous people procure guns with ease in Jamaica and with the consent of the FLA.
In an article published on March 10, 2022, The Gleanernoted that based on a report released by the Integrity Commission, the FLA knowingly granted permits to criminals: “The Integrity Commission said, the FLA board which was appointed in 2016 after the Jamaica Labour Party won state power ‘acted with impropriety in the issuance and/or grant of firearm user licences to persons of questionable character during the period 2016–2018.’”
Gun violence is like a disease poisoning America’s social fabric, but unfortunately, investing in gun control won’t neuter the problem, as the case of Jamaica so aptly demonstrates.
We are now well past the corona crisis of 2020, and most of the restrictions around the world have been repealed or loosened.
However, the long-term consequences of arbitrary and destructive corona policies are still with us—in fact, we are now in the middle of the inevitable economic crisis.
Proclaiming the great crash and economic crisis of 2022 is at this point not especially prescient or insightful, as commentators have been predicting it for months. The cause is still somewhat obscure, as financial and economic journalism still focuses on whatever the Federal Reserve announces. But the importance of the Fed’s moves is greatly exaggerated. The Fed cannot set interest rates at will; it cannot generate a boom or a recession at will. It can only print money and create the illusion of greater prosperity, but ultimately, reality reasserts itself.
The real driver of the present crisis is monetary inflation. Back in 2020, I (along with many others) pointed out the role of inflationary monetary policy in the corona crisis. While consumer price inflation is now the most apparent consequence, the real damage occurred in the capital structure of the economy. This is the cause of the present crisis.
A Business Cycle, of Sorts
While to most people the most obvious consequence of the corona inflation was the transfer payments they received from the government, the real action occurred in the business sector. Through various schemes, newly created money was channeled to the productive sector from the Fed via the Treasury. The result was a classic business cycle of unsustainable expansion ending in inevitable depression.
The immediate effect of the inflow of easy money was twofold. First, it hid some of the economic distortions that lockdowns and other restrictions caused. Since they received government funds to make up for lost revenue and to cover higher costs, businessmen maintained production lines that really should have been shut down or altered in some way due to lockdowns. Second, easy money induced capitalists to make new, unsound investments, as they thought the extra money meant greater capital availability.
These investments were unsound not because the government quickly turned off the money spigot again: they were unsound because the real resources were not there; people had not saved more to make them available. The supply of complementary factors of production had not increased, or not as much as suggested by the increase in money available for investment. As the businesses expanded and increased demand for these complementary factors, their prices therefore rose. To keep the boom going, businesses have started to borrow more money in the market, driving up interest rates. But there is no cheap credit to be had at this point, since there haven’t been additional infusions of cheap money since the initial inflation of 2020, so interest rates are quickly rising. This is the real explanation of the inversion of the yield curve: businesses are scrambling for funding as they find themselves in a liquidity shortage, since their input prices are rising above their revenues. It’s not the market front-running the Federal Reserve or any other fancy expectations-based cause: interest rates rise because businesses are short on capital.
The following chart shows the increase in producer prices compared to consumer prices—an increase of almost 40 percent since the beginning of 2020 is clearly unsustainable. That consumer prices have not increased as much is a clear indication that we’re dealing with a business boom and that businesses can’t expect future revenues that will cover their elevated costs. Nor are we simply seeing oil price increases due to disruptions in supply. Oil and energy commodities complement virtually all production processes, so inflation-induced investment will lead to an early rise in oil and energy prices.
Figure 1: Producer and Consumer Price Indices, January 2019–May 2022
Eventually, interest rates will be bid too high, and businessmen will have to abandon their investments. Many will throw inventories on the market at almost any price to fund their liabilities, cut back their workforces, and likely go bankrupt. This appears to be happening already, as CNBC is reporting many layoffs in tech companies.
A likely consequence of this bust will be a banking crisis: as the share of nonperforming loans increases, bank revenues will dry up, and banks may find themselves unable to meet their own obligations. A crisis could develop, leading to what has been called “secondary deflation”: the contraction of the money supply as deposits in bankrupt banks simply evaporate. While that is a consummation devoutly to be wished, it is unlikely, to put it mildly, that the Federal Reserve will let things get to that point. This neatly brings us to a central question: What is the central bank doing right now?
The Contractionary Fed
Surprising as it sounds, the Fed really is pursuing a tightening policy. Not necessarily the one they officially announced—they are not, in fact, reducing their balance sheet, but an extremely tight policy nonetheless.
It is worth pointing out that the Fed is really a one-trick pony: all it can do is create money, either directly or indirectly by giving banks the reserves necessary for bank credit expansion. All the stuff about setting interest rates is secondary, if not irrelevant: the market always and everywhere sets interest rates. Central banks can only influence interest rates by, you guessed it, printing money.
Figure 2: M2 (billions of dollars), January 2019–April 2022
While the Fed was very inflationary back in 2020 as figures 2 and 3 show, it has since reversed course and become not only conservative, but outright contractionary. That is, not only has the growth rate slowed down, but there was a real, if small, fall in the quantity of money in early 2022.
Figure 3: M2 (percent change), January 2019–April 2022
This contraction is not immediately evident if we only look at the Fed’s overall balance sheet, because since March 2021, the Fed has aggressively increased the amount of reverse repurchase agreements (reverse repos) they hold (or owe, technically). In a reverse repo transaction, the Fed temporarily sells a bond to a bank (just as they temporarily buy a bond from a bank in a repo transaction). This sucks reserves from the system, just as repos add reserves to the system. From virtually zero in March 2021, the amount of reverse repos has increased to $2,421.6 billion as of June 15, reducing the amount of available reserves by the same amount. The Fed balance sheet has not shrunk due to simple accounting: the bond underlying the repo transaction is still recorded on the Fed balance sheet. Banks, meanwhile, benefit from this transaction even though their reserves are temporarily reduced, earning a practically risk-free 0.8 percent (the Fed increased the award rate on reverse repos to 1.55 percent on June 15 and will likely increase it in the near future as the market rate keeps rising).
Figure 4: Reverse Repurchase Agreements, March 2021–June 2022
Whatever this is, it’s not a policy that will feed inflation—in fact, inflation really will be transitory if the Fed continues its present policy. This is somewhat ironic, as the Fed has increased its holdings of inflation-indexed bonds, suggesting its economists themselves do not believe the transitory narrative. Of course, it’s possible that the Fed may simply be gearing up for the next round of inflationary policy.
What is certain is that the Fed is now neutralizing its previous inflation. The great 2020 inflation went first to the US Treasury account at the Fed and then to the government’s favored clients. As the government drew down its account, money went to the banks and was deposited at the Fed as reserves. At this point, the inflation could have accelerated. The banks were already flush with reserves and could have extended credit on top of the tidal wave of additional reserves flowing into them. This would likely have happened as the market rate of interest started rising, if not earlier, but by sucking banks’ reserves out the Fed is limiting banks’ inflationary potential. Credit expansion is still possible, as the banks maintain a historically elevated reserves-deposits ratio of around 20 percent and have since 2020 been liberated from any kind of legal reserve requirement. But by reducing the reserves in the system, the Fed is effectively preventing this development. After peaking at over 23 percent, the reserve ratio has steadily declined since September 2021, hitting 19 percent in April, as shown in figure 5. Since reverse repo transactions have continued in May and June, the monetary contraction seen in the first quarter is likely ongoing, although we will have to wait for more recent money supply figures to confirm this.
Figure 5: Banks’ Reserve Ratio, May 2020–April 2022
What Happens Now?
Whatever happens next, one thing is clear: the crisis is already upon us. Stock market declines and financial market chaos are really epiphenomena, headline capturing though they may be. The damage has already been done. And while I’ve here focused on the covid era, we were already heading for crisis in 2019—the coronavirus just provided an excuse for one last gigantic inflationary binge.
This means that it’s not simply the malinvestments of the last two years that needs to be cleared out—it’s the accumulated capital destruction of the last fifteen years that’s now becoming apparent. How much capital was wasted in tech start-ups that had no chance of ever turning a profit? As this piece in The Atlantic points out, enormous amounts of capital were poured into technology projects aimed at the hip urban millennial lifestyle—and now that they cannot cover operating costs with endless infusions of venture capital, prices are spiking and companies are laying off workers. The boom in construction is also at an end, as demand for housing is unlikely to remain elevated as mortgage rates rise.
In all likelihood, the Fed is not going to stay the course. Pressure from finance and from government is likely to force it back into inflation, but this inflation can’t prevent the bust. As Ludwig von Mises pointed out, you can’t paper over the economic crisis with yet another infusion of paper money; the crisis will play out, whatever the central bank decides to do. What the Fed can do is continue funding the government and bailing out the financial system when they come under pressure. Both will be very inflationary.
We should not celebrate the Fed for refraining from inflating the money supply at the moment—after all, its previous recklessness caused the problems to begin with—but let’s hope the Fed stays the course for now.1 The longer a new round of inflation is delayed, the more radical will the purge of malinvestment and clown-world finance be. High inflation is also possible, perhaps even more likely, given the political pressures. In that case, Weimar, here we come!
The House of Representatives has proposed granting Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin the authority to provide up to $450 million in security and intelligence assistance to Ukraine in fiscal year 2023 – $150 million more than the amount previously requested by the White House.
Taxpayers in NATO countries have been asked to shell out tens of billions of dollars for military aid to Ukraine, with the US alone pledging some $54 billion in support – equivalent to more than four/fifths of Russia’s 2021 defense budget.
The bill “includes $450 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which provides support and assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, an increase of $150 million above the budget request,” the House Armed Services Committee said in a document released Monday summarizing its 547 page Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Bill.
Other Ukraine-related measures in the bill include the requirement for “updated security strategies” for US non-NATO European partners, and quarterly briefings to Congress on efforts to replenish stocks of tactical missiles given to Kiev by the US and its allies.
The legislation also requires the dozens of US bases dotting Europe to “adopt installation energy plans to increase energy resiliency and sustainability in order to reduce reliance on” Russian energy, and asks the Pentagon to set a formal goal to eventually eliminate “their use of Russian energy entirely.”
The bill further proposes “reporting on efforts by the Russian Federation to expand its presence and malign influence in Latin America and the Caribbean,” and on the operations of Russian private military contractors in Africa, plus any efforts by Moscow to build naval bases on the continent.
As for China, along with a $6 billion funding package for a ‘Pacific Defense Initiative’, the bill calls for an assessment of any “dual-use technology that the Chinese Communist Party might exploit,” and “policy solutions that align with the National Defense Strategy.” Additionally, it proposes an assessment of fuel distribution in the Indo-Pacific, proposes enhanced defense cooperation with US partners in the region, marks a formal expression of “congressional support for the US defense relationship with Taiwan,” and requires the head of US Indo-Pacific Command to brief congress on “support and sustainment for critical capabilities necessary to meet operational requirements in a conflict.”
“Strategic competitors like Beijing and Moscow have threatened the security, freedom, and prosperity of people living around the world by seeking to erode the rules-based international order. This mark supports investments in the alliances and partnerships that the United States needs to meet these challenges, including more than $6 billion in funding for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and nearly $4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative,” House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith said in a statement.
The House Armed Services Committee is proposing setting aside a total of $772 billion for the 2023 defense budget, while its Senate counterpart is prepared to authorize $817 billion -$45 billion more than President Biden has requested.
National Defense Authorization bills are typically adopted at the close of each calendar year, with the ‘fiscal year’ beginning and ending in October.
American pundits from both the Left and the Right have criticized the White House and Congress for lavishing Ukraine with tens of billions in security assistance while “ignoring” domestic problems such as inflation, gas prices, homelessness, and other issues. A minority of House Republicans opposed the $40 billion aid bill approved by Congress last month out of fear that a Russia-US “proxy war” in Ukraine could escalate out of control.
“If we’re gonna have a proxy war, and we’re gonna give $40 billion to Ukraine because we wanna look all fancy with our blue and yellow ribbons and feel good about ourselves, maybe we should actually have a debate in this chamber, a debate in this body, because the American people expect us to do that,” Texas Republican representative Chip Roy said on the floor of the House last month. 11 GOP senators and 57 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted against the Ukraine aid package.
Germany will have to boost the use of coal for electricity production to make up for the shortage of natural gas from Russia, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a policy paper released on Sunday and cited by Deutsche Welle.
“To reduce gas consumption, less gas must be used to generate electricity. Coal-fired power plants will have to be used more instead,” the minister said in the paper. He deplored the need to use more coal to produce electricity, as Germany, along with other EU states, has been taking steps to curtail use of the ‘dirty fuel’ and move towards green energy, but, according to Habeck, the current situation is too serious to be picky.
“That’s bitter, but it’s simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage,” he said. Berlin has been eager to make energy production in the country coal-free by 2030, but under the circumstances this goal may have to be changed.
The minister also noted that more gas should be brought into storage facilities, or “it will be really tight in winter.”
Gas storage facilities in Germany are around 57% full at the moment, according to the German media, citing the Federal Network Agency. Meanwhile, according to the paper, the German Ministry of Economy is working on a new regulation to establish a “gas replacement reserve” by upgrading power plants to be turned into storage sites. Several other mechanisms are in the works, including a gas auction and a loan worth €15 billion ($15.74 billion) for the purchase of additional gas.
The minister’s statements follow a decision by Russia’s Gazprom to cut natural gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by 60% after German maintenance provider Siemens failed to return pumping units after repairs due to sanctions.
Habeck, however, slammed this decision as political and linked to tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.
“It is obviously [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s strategy … to drive the [energy] prices up and divide us,” he said in a separate statement to media last week.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dereck Hogan has pledged that over “the next four to five months”, the Biden administration will allocate about $1.5 billion monthly for support of the Ukrainian government, in a statement that comes as inflation has shown no sign of easing in America.
The US Federal Reserve is currently struggling to tackle the country’s soaring inflation, which started reaching heights not seen for decades in November 2021.
Speaking at a conference of the Washington-based Wilson Centre think tank on Monday, Hogan said that since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February, around $53.6 billion in assistance, including military aid, has been allocated to Kiev by the White House.
Apart from the economic hardships the US is going through, with inflation and average gas prices reaching new record highs, the vow comes on the heels of renewed concerns that the American money might be “diverted” or “stolen”.
Last month, Republican Senator Rand Paul called for fiscal accountability on the money, arguing that “unless we put an end to the fiscal insanity, a day of reckoning awaits” the US.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quoted US officials as warning that although there are no instances of malfeasance, more efforts are needed to prevent the money from possibly being misused.John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told the WSJ in this context that “even if it’s a noble cause, there’s going to be theft, […] misconduct, [….]” and “[…] stupid decisions being made”.
The remarks were preceded by President Joe Biden signing legislation in May to support Ukraine with another $40 billion in US assistance, with the objective of backing Kiev through September. It dwarfs an earlier emergency measure that provided $13.6 billion.
The legislation authorises roughly $20 billion for the Defence Department to spend on security assistance for Ukraine, including the provision of military equipment. The bill would also provide almost $9 billion in economic assistance, over $4 billion in humanitarian aid and another $4 billion in foreign military financing through the State Department.
Senate lawmakers passed the bill in a 86-11 vote, with the opposition coming from Republican Senators, including Rand Paul and Josh Hawley, who expressed concerns about the legislation’s potential impact on the US economy and other domestic priorities. Paul previously delayed attempts to fast-track the bill, citing concerns about spending billions of dollars on Ukraine amid rising inflation and disrupted supply chains in the US.
US Department of Labour data released late last week showed that inflation in America hit an annualised rate of 8.6 percent in May, the worst such index since December 1981.
The date indicated that the jump in the Consumer Price Index – a basket of goods and services whose prices are measured meticulously, increased most dramatically for energy, which surged 34.6 percent over the year, and food, which jumped 10.1 percent. So-called “core inflation”, which includes all items except energy and food, jumped six percent over the year, according to the Department of Labour.
Biden blamed factors ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to Russian President Vladimir Putin to explain the inflation surge in the US. The White House dismissed the idea expressed by some fiscal conservatives that the policy of pumping trillions of new dollars into the economy on COVID stimulus and POTUS’ ambitious infrastructure spending plan might have played a major role in sparking the current crisis.
On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a special military operation to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” Ukraine following request for help from the Donbass republics amid increasing attacks on them by the Ukrainian Army, something that prompted the US and its allies to slap a spate of “severe” sanctions on Moscow.
A number of colleges and universities have re-implemented COVID-19 mask mandates for the summer semester.
Campus Reform compared the current mask mandates at four universities to the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels in their respective counties.
Currently, the CDC issues recommendations by guidelines assisted by three levels of transmission: low, medium, and high. County levels are determined based on infection rate and hospitalization.
Masking is only recommended to be mandated if a county is considered a “high” transmission location.
George Washington University – District of Columbia
George Washington University, located in Washington D.C., extended its indoor mask mandate on June 1 after re-instating the policy in April.
Masks are required inside all campus buildings unless actively eating or drinking.
According to the CDC, Washington D.C. currently has a medium level of transmission.
Regardless, the April announcement declared that the mandate would be reinstated due to the “highly transmissible” Omicron variant.
The CDC suggests that when the community transmission level is medium, one should “talk to your healthcare provider about wearing masks indoors in public.”
For medium community transmission levels, the CDC suggests wearing a mask while indoors if one is at a high risk of severe illness.
University of California, Los Angeles – Los Angeles County
The University of California, Los Angeles resumed indoor masking after recording 870 cases in late May.
According to the university, indoor masking is essential to avoid a disruption of in-person learning and graduation ceremonies.
Los Angeles County currently records a medium transmission level, according to CDC data.
Brown University – Providence County
Brown University, located in Providence County, New Jersey, requires masking for individuals not “up to date” with Covid-19 vaccination.
All employees are required to be fully vaccinated in addition to “one booster dose when eligible.”
Brown University spokesperson Brian Clark told Campus Reform that exceptions are given for “religious or medical grounds.”
“Requests are reviewed by University Health Services clinicians or University Human Resources representatives in consultation, as necessary, with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity,” he stated.
Providence County currently records a medium transmission level.
According to Clark, students at Brown University are not required to adhere to social distancing guidelines—regardless of vaccination state.
Columbia University – New York County
Columbia University updated its masking guidelines on June 7 to require masks “in classrooms and clinical settings” through the summer semester.
Students are advised to wear masks in outdoor campus spaces, as well.
Higher-quality masks such as KN95 or N95 masks are recommended in addition to a cloth mask for “enhanced protection.”
COVID-19 vaccinations are required for all faculty, staff members, and students. Booster shots are strongly recommended for faculty and staff and are required for students.
The May Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in higher than expected. The headline year-on-year price increase was 8.6%. The projection was for the CPI to hold steady at the same level as last month — 8.3%. Instead, we got the biggest jump in prices during this inflationary cycle and the highest CPI print since 1981.
On a month-to-month basis, the CPI rose by 1%. This was above the 0.7% projection. Another spike in fuel and energy costs primarily drove the monthly increase. Energy costs rose 3.9% during the month. Annualized, energy prices are up 34.6%. Fuel oil posted a 16.9% monthly gain, pushing the 12-month surge to 106.7%.
Stripping out more volatile food and energy prices, core CPI rose 0.6%. This equaled last month’s core CPI gain and was double the March core read of 0.3%, which was supposedly signaling peak inflation. If you annualize the last two months, the core CPI would come in at 7.2%.
Year-over-year, core CPI rose 6%. This was slightly above the 5.9% estimate.
Housing costs continue to inch higher, even using the government’s make-believe “owner’s equivalent rent” calculation. The housing index was up another 0.6% on the month and this significantly understates the actual rise in housing costs. It was the fasted one-month gain in shelter costs since 2004. The 5.5% 12-month gain ranks as the biggest rise in housing prices since February 1991,
Taking into account rising prices, the average consumer took a pay cut from April to May, according to a separate BLS report. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3%, but real wages fell 0.6%. On a year-on-year basis, real average hourly earnings decreased 3%, seasonally adjusted.
In March, everybody was talking about peak inflation. Clearly, the CPI didn’t peak in March if it’s higher in May. And there is no reason to think these May numbers will be the peak either.
While the mainstream blames, Russia, COVID, supply chains, excessive demand, and perhaps voodoo for rising inflation, it completely ignores the most significant factor – actual inflation created by the Federal Reserve.
Remember, rising prices are not in and of themselves “inflation.” Inflation is an increase in the money supply. Rising prices are a symptom of inflation. Loose central bank monetary policy drives the money supply up.
The Federal Reserve has been flooding the economy with money — inflation — since 2009. We are drowning in inflation.
The Fed took a weak swing at inflation during its May meeting, raising interest rates by 1/2%. But at .75%, interest rates remain historically low. Meanwhile, the central bank pushed back balance sheet reduction until June. And at the proposed pace, it would take over 7 years to decrease the balance sheet back to pre-pandemic levels. The Federal Reserve hasn’t done nearly enough to mop up all of the excess liquidity in the economy.
As a SchiffGold analyst put it, “This is still highly stimulative, inflationary policy. Interest rates are being held artificially low. And we’re still dealing with all of this inflation that is in the pipeline.”
It should be clear to you that this won’t fix inflation. In fact, it will only make it worse by raising the inflation tax. Every dollar the government spends comes out of Americans’ pockets — out of your pocket.
If the federal government is going to spend more to fight inflation, it will either have to raise taxes (and not just on the “rich” — that won’t generate enough government revenue) or it will have to borrow more. That means the Federal Reserve will have to print more to monetize the debt. That means more inflation.
All of this tells me that peak inflation was every bit a fairytale as transitory inflation.
In response to Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, which Moscow started on 24 February in a bid to protect the Donbass People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, Western countries have rolled out a comprehensive anti-Russian sanctions campaign and have been supplying weapons to Ukraine.
The West has been pressuring Arab League countries to condemn Russia amid Moscow’s special operation in Ukraine, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, has said.
“They [Arab League countries] did not succumb to this dictate to which they were subjected, and some even refused to vote for condemning the actions of the Russian Federation,” Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a Sunday interview with the Egyptian Sada el-Balad TV channel.
The Secretary General emphasized that the West is trying to get Arab League members to take its side and oppose and condemn Moscow in order to “surround” Russia.
Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, after the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics appealed for help in defending themselves against Ukrainian shellings.Russia said that the aim of its special operation is to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the goal is to protect the people of Donbass, “who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.”
This is the largest gap to President Trump’s job approval rating at this point in their terms…
Interestingly, as MorningConsult.com reports, Biden’s diminishing standing should be alarming to Democrats working to hold control of Congress in the midterm elections this fall.
While Biden’s decline has not yet dragged down approval for most Democratic incumbents on the Senate side of the aisle, studies have shown an increasing association between a party’s House performance and their president’s job approval rating.
Mike Gwin, who has been the White House rapid response director since January 2021, will depart to become the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced on Tuesday.
“On a sad note, our dear friend and colleague, Michael Gwin, will be leaving us for Treasury, where he will serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing while praising Gwin for “responding to the most challenging and difficult issues imaginable” during his time in the press office.
“Yet, amidst these often emotionally-wrenching stories, Gwin’s poise and moral clarity are unfailing, and his willingness and ability to step up has made him an indispensable member of the team,” she continued.
White House press assistant Michael Kikukawa is also leaving to serve in public affairs at the U.S. Treasury, Jean-Pierre confirmed.
“And joining Gwin at the Treasury Department will be our very own Michael Kikukawa, where he will serve as a spokesperson,” she said.
“Michael, better known here to all of you, to all of us as ‘Kiku,’ has served not just as a press assistant but as the strong engine and reliable engine at the press shop. His relentless work ethic and dedication to the mission of this team have been second to none.”
Last week it was announced that assistant press secretary Vedant Patel is also leaving the White House to become principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department.
The following day, Jean-Pierre confirmed that press office chief of staff Amanda Finney would move to the Energy Department to become deputy director of public affairs.
In May, MSNBC announced that it officially hired former White House press secretary Jen Psaki after she departed the Biden administration on May 13.
Psaki is set to host her own show which is scheduled to debut sometime during the first quarter of 2023 and will “bring together her unique perspective from behind the podium and her deep experience in the highest levels of government and presidential politics,” the network said Tuesday in a statement while touting her “extensive experience in government and on the campaign trail.”
The departures come amid reports of tensions in the White house between staffers who are allegedly scrambling to improve Biden’s image ahead of the midterm elections.
The Washington Post reported that Biden had complained for weeks to his aids that “his administration was not doing enough to publicly explain” sky-high inflation levels.
A string of other news outlets reported similar frictions in office, including Politico, which stated that at least 21 black staff members have exited the White House since late last year or are planning to leave soon.
The reports come after more than a dozen top aides have in the past 12 months left the office of Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been noticeably absent from the spotlight since taking up her role and has faced criticism for her handling of certain situations, such as the U.S.–Mexico border crisis.
White House officials have pushed back on the narrative of friction behind the scenes, stating that routine job shuffling is normal.
“The president is incredibly proud to have built what continues to be the most diverse White House staff in history, and he is committed to continuing historic representation for Black staff and all communities,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement to Politico. “This is a normal time for turnover across the board in any administration and Black staff have been promoted at a higher rate than staff who are not diverse.”