Cup of Joe – July 5, 2023

The US economy grew at a much stronger rate in the first quarter of the year, according to revised figures released Thursday, reporting annualized growth of 2%—a larger-than-normal revision from 1.3%. Economists credited robust consumer spending and higher-than-expected exports for the boost.  

Meanwhile, the stock market ended one of its better first halves of the year Friday, with the Nasdaq, S&P 500, and Dow up 31.7%, 15.9%, and 3.8% for the year, respectively. It marks the Nasdaq’s best start to a year since 1983, due mostly to growth in tech stocks amid a surge in AI development.  

Key to the success was Apple, which saw its stock price jump over 2% Friday to close the day with a market capitalization of $3T, a first for a publicly traded company

Protests in France over the Tuesday police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk during a traffic stop stretched into the weekend, with more than 3,000 people detained and roughly 45,000 officers deployed to quell demonstrations across the country. 

According to reports, two officers attempted to stop Merzouk after observing him driving erratically in morning traffic. Police opened fire on Merzouk’s vehicle after stopping him, saying he tried to hit them while driving away. Video later posted on social media appeared to undermine those claims—though Merzouk did appear to try and flee the scene (see here).  

Widespread property damage and looting have accompanied the protests following the killing, including reportedly crashing a car into a local mayor’s home and setting it on fire.  

Observers say Merzouk’s killing has become a flashpoint for long-simmering accusations of misconduct and racial bias by French police. See photos from the protests here.

Former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told MSNBC that she personally witnessed Trump sharing classified information at Mar-a-Lago during his presidency.

Said Grisham: “I watched him show documents to people at Mar a Lago on the dining room patio. So he has no respect for classified information. Never did.”

“A pair of Republican senators have thrown up roadblocks to the confirmation of dozens of U.S. ambassadors, marking the latest effort by lawmakers to delay President Biden’s nominees until their demands are addressed,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rand Paul (R-KY)—citing concerns about progressive political ideology and Covid-19 research records respectively—have put holds on State Department appointees, primarily career foreign-service officers.”

Washington Post: “The House’s focus on the far-right’s demands over the past month has irritated Republicans who represent swing districts or are worried that an extreme legislative agenda will push voters away and hand the House majority to Democrats in 2024. So they are learning to flex their procedural muscles, largely behind the scenes, to keep some proposals they see as most damaging off the House floor.”

“In recent weeks, these lawmakers have kept some abortion-related measures from being put to a vote and sunk an amendment that would have derailed a government oversight bill. They also have tried to convince their far-right counterparts to avoid altering appropriation bills during committee markups, warning that any poison pills could force a big enough group to reject the bills on the House floor if they feel they could hurt their reelection chances.”

Associated Press: “The U.S. is recommending Americans reconsider traveling to China because of arbitrary law enforcement, exit bans and the risk of wrongful detentions. No specific cases were cited, but the advisory comes after a 78-year-old U.S. citizen was sentenced to life in prison on spying charges in May.”

New York Times: “Despite the partisan attacks, Disney remains one of the strongest brands in the world. But cracks in its public reputation are showing, and the company is now facing the uncomfortable possibility that it will remain under attack by Mr. DeSantis for at least another year. That is an eternity for Disney, which has zealously tried for 100 years to avoid political and cultural pitfalls for fear of tarnishing its happily-ever-after brand.”

New York Times: “Since May 12, the average number of daily illegal crossings has been around 3,360, according to Department of Homeland Security data. In March 2022, that average was about 7,100. … But officials say this lull, after nearly two years of higher-than-usual crossings, is not going to last.”

“The federal government is about to change its certification guidelines for voting machines — and election officials across the country are bracing for a wave of misinformation that erodes trust in the 2024 election,” Politico reports.

“Election officials are not-so-quietly freaking out that this long-awaited technical overhaul of voting machine guidelines later this year will be weaponized against them. The officials, who are used to operating in relative obscurity, just endured two election cycles in which seemingly benign issues blew up in their face. Now they’re afraid it’s happening all over again.”

A civil rights group demanded that the federal government end Harvard’s special admissions treatment for children of alumni, saying the policy discriminates against applicants of color in favor of less qualified white candidates. Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that rejected race-based affirmative action, three civil rights groups filed a complaint with the Education Department claiming that Harvard’s preferences for “legacy” applicants violates a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans racial discrimination in programs that receive federal funds. 70% of legacy admissions to Harvard are White, compared with about 40% of regular applicants. Further, legacy applicants are more than five times as likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Associated Press / Reuters)

“The pivotal political battleground of Pennsylvania is demonstrating that there’s still a critical mass of Trump-supporting swing voters that will back the right type of Democrat under certain circumstances,” Axios reports.

“The party that wins over the Pennsylvania voter that backed President Obama in 2012, President Trump in 2016 and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) in 2022 will have the inside track toward winning the presidency in 2024.”

“It’s a larger persuadable voting bloc than you’d expect, given the intense partisanship and polarization across the country. Fetterman, in particular, exceeded expectations in rural Trump-friendly counties with large recent increases in GOP registration.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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