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Reward or punish? U.S.’s booming economy makes midterm elections a tough decision for some – National




For many voters in America’s affluent suburbs, a flourishing economy is forcing a thorny dilemma for the midterm elections.

U.S. midterm elections: What they are, how they work and why they matter

Do they vote Democratic, in part to protest U.S. President Donald Trump for behaviour some see as divisive and unpresidential? Or do they back Republicans in hopes that the economy will continue thriving under the majority party?

A healthy economy has at least complicated their decision and blurred the outcome of the midterm elections. On Friday, the government reported that employers added a robust 250,000 jobs in October. And the unemployment rate stayed at a five-decade low of 3.7 per cent.

At stake Tuesday is control of the House and Senate, both now led by Republican majorities. Steady economic growth and a vigorous job market haven’t been the clincher in prosperous areas that were once seemingly safe Republican turf. Partly as a result, many analysts say Democrats stand a good chance of regaining control of the House even while Republicans maintain the Senate.

WATCH: U.S. Midterm Elections: What is gerrymandering?

The ambivalence of many voters is evident in the Philadelphia suburbs of Bucks and Chester counties. The landscape of rolling hills is dotted by shopping plazas and luxury car dealerships, by fieldstone and stucco houses that fill cul-de-sacs. Residents are likelier than the country as a whole to have college degrees, and the median family income is about $100,000.

Interviews with about a dozen people elicited a range of sentiments about whether and how the economy might affect their votes. For some, all that matters is the energized pace of job growth, which began under President Barack Obama and has continued under Trump.

Others, some of them lifelong Republicans, are finding their loyalties tested by a president who embraces tariffs, disparages refugees and attacks political opponents. With Pennsylvania also holding votes for governor and a Senate seat, many said they were willing to split their votes between the parties.

SNL jabs Democrats’ confidence heading into midterms in spoof political ad

“I’m not a fan of Donald Trump,” said 85-year-old Ross Kershey. “He doesn’t respect checks and balances. But he’s certainly done well for the economy.”

A retired high school history teacher, Kershey is teaching a course on the Supreme Court at Immaculata University in Malvern, a suburb of Philadelphia. Those court cases were fresh in his mind as he sipped tea and ate pancakes at an IHOP on a recent afternoon. He objects to Trump’s recent threat to unilaterally suspend the constitutional protection of birthright citizenship as a way to control undocumented immigration.

Yet for all his antipathy toward the president, the strength of the economy is at least giving Kershey pause: “I’ll probably vote Democratic, but I’m not sure yet.”

WATCH: Trump accused of stoking immigration fears

Workers have been increasingly benefiting from the economy’s strength. Average pay growth for over the past 12 months has reached 3.1 per cent, its best year-over-year increase since 2009, the government said Friday. Those gains have been concentrated among affluent Americans, though higher minimum wages have also helped raise the pay of many lower-income workers.

Among people earning at least $100,000, 60 per cent approve of how Trump has handled the economy, according to a survey by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That is a relative advantage for a president whose tax cuts for corporations and individuals are credited with helping boost growth this year.

Jean Hoffman, a 53-year-old real estate agent in Chester County, is pondering the college costs ahead for her two teenage daughters. She said she thinks voting Republican might help extend the economy’s hot streak.

If Trump’s Republicans win midterms, buckle up: former Republican

“I’m going to have two kids in college, and these are my earning years,” she said. “So for me, the economy is the No. 1 priority.”

Hoffman said she feels less concerned about Trump’s confrontational style or habit of assailing critics.

“It’s like white noise at this point,” she said.

Judging by the economy, the status of the House appears too close to call, said Ray Fair, a Yale economist. Using inflation and growth data, Fair developed a model to forecast electoral outcomes, which in 2016 correctly showed that that presidential election favored Republicans.

WATCH: Poll shows surge in voter enthusiasm among U.S. Hispanics ahead of midterms

For 2018, Fair’s economy-based model is less favourable than most political surveys for Democratic prospects to win the House. But the gap isn’t sufficient to draw a firm conclusion about what will happen Tuesday. Because the party out of power — Democrats, in this case — generally enjoys an advantage in midterms, growth would have to be even stronger to decisively help Republicans this year.

“This time, the real uncertainty is turnout,” Fair said. “You can’t say anything with much confidence about who is going be on which side of 50 per cent.”

To drive turnout, Pat Proprik, chair of the Bucks County Republicans, has been speaking to groups of voters nightly and knocking on doors. She said people in wealthier parts of the county tend to highlight the economy in explaining their intention to back Trump. Those in more modest areas tend to stress non-economic issues, at least at first.

Early voter turnout for U.S. midterm elections trounces previous years — especially among youth

“Economics isn’t the first thing out of their mouth,” Proprik said. “But when you bring it up, they jump on it.”

At 83, Dick Calef is a lifelong Republican. He attributes the economic gains in suburban Philadelphia to longer-term factors beyond Trump’s policies, like the growth of internet and health care companies. Calef is still unsure how he’ll vote.

“I find myself voting to keep a balance in the government,” he said. “I’m kind of fed up with the political environment.”

WATCH: ‘Need a check on this president”: Sen. Warner urges Americans to vote in midterm elections

Jerry McNeff intends to split his ballot between the parties in Pennsylvania’s House, Senate and gubernatorial races.

“Trump had the right philosophy regarding the economy,” said McNeff, 72. “Taxes needed to be overhauled. Regulations had become obstructive to industry.”

But as he has aged, McNeff said, the economy has mattered less to him. He thinks more about his five grandchildren. Every report of a mass shooting at a school makes him wonder about what could happen to them. And it stuns him that the federal government has done little to prevent future shootings, like seriously considering a bill to expand background checks.

“If you say what is the No. 1 thing that keeps you up at night, that is it.”

WATCH: Trump insider appears on The West Block to talk midterm strategy


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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