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Joe Biden got to work. On his first day in office, the 46th US president signed a flurry of executive orders undoing his predecessor’s policies, and tackling climate change and Covid-19. With three new senators sworn in, his party now controls Congress by a slim margin.
Investors sent US stocks soaring. Buoyed by hopes of more federal spending and a stronger pandemic response, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 rose more than on any inauguration since 1937.
Twitter locked China’s US embassy account… The firm was reacting to a tweet promoting Beijing’s repressive policies in Xinjiang. Separately, China sanctioned 28 Trump administration officials and allies, in what a Biden spokesperson called “an attempt to play to partisan divides.”
…while TikTok was drawn into Russian politics. Officials asked the app to prevent minors from seeing posts encouraging them to protest the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
London and Brussels got in a diplomatic spat. Britain is refusing to give full diplomatic status to the EU ambassador in London, where the bloc has maintained a mission after Brexit.
Suicide bombings hit Baghdad. The marketplace attack killed at least 13 people and was the capital’s first suicide bombing in 18 months. Iraq has seen increased violence in the lead-up to a general election, which was recently delayed to October.
Central banks hold steady. The Bank of Japan said the country’s economy is gaining momentum thanks to stimulus spending, while investors will scrutinize the European Central Bank’s latest forecast as vaccinations get off to a slow start in the EU.
What to watch for
Intel is set to post its Q4 earnings today. With a new CEO and a new or revised strategy to come, Intel, which has stopped making political contributions, is one of a growing number of major companies cribbing from IBM.
IBM doesn’t donate to political parties, candidates, or causes. Ever.
If you’ve got a US portfolio or retirement account, you’re probably invested in a number of different S&P 500 firms. Unlike IBM, many if not most of these corporations have established themselves as big contributors to individual candidates. In light of the violence at the US Capitol and some members of Congress voting against certifying the presidential election results on Jan. 6, many of these companies have announced changes of heart. While it’s still illegal to contribute directly to federal campaigns, political action committees, or PACs, have long been recipients of major Wall Street donor dollars.
Now, 37 companies, which comprise 16.9% of the S&P’s total value, have stopped contributions to representatives who backed now-former President Donald Trump’s evidence-free effort to overturn the election. Another 95 companies worth 19% of the index’s total value have stopped political contributions altogether. IBM and Intel could soon find themselves among crowded ranks.
Mapping the fight for a $15 minimum wage
The newly inaugurated president’s $1.9 trillion economic aid package includes a measure that would double the national average minimum wage to $15 an hour. In an early test of his commitment to building a coalition across the aisle, Biden’s gambit has been quelled by Republican lawmakers in the past. Still, success in Florida and the looming specter of Covid-19 over the labor market have given him cause for optimism.
With $15 an hour the standard in New York, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Florida, 40% of the US labor force now lives under what would be Biden’s minimum mark. After decades of debate, Republican obstinance, and research, it seems the US could finally be on the verge of a substantial change to the minimum wage, which respected economists have argued would have a negligible impact on employment while raising quality of life.
Hong Kong’s freedom fight
With its sophisticated fundraising and digital partnerships across the globe, Hong Kong’s protest has helped elevate the issue to the top of countries’ foreign policy agendas, and scored victories like US legislation from the Trump administration supporting Hong Kong and a path to UK citizenship for millions of Hong Kongers.
In turn, many in Hong Kong saw Trump as “the lesser of two evils” as the US elections approached. Some were persuaded by his baseless claims of election fraud. Then the Capitol riot happened. Now, as Trump retreats into a world replete with financial and legal trials ahead, some in the protest movement worry their alignment with the US election’s losing side may belie a rift within the movement and a larger misunderstanding of American politics.
Hong Kong’s activists are fighting against, as they see it, the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule. Rioters in the US were acting on behalf of a leader with authoritarian tendencies. How does a movement fighting for democracy square its support for a leader who’s actively trying to dismantle it? How does a movement resisting authoritarian rule justify advocating for a political figure with deeply authoritarian instincts?
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