Signs of the Times – Election Edition

Best Election Headline

The Deplorables Decide it’s Time to Drain the Swamp” (Todd Starnes, Fox News)

President Trump Gracious in Victory, Clinton & Obama in Defeat

Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States, CNN projected Wednesday morning, a historic victory for outsiders that represents a stunning repudiation of Washington’s political establishment. The billionaire real estate magnate and former reality star needed an almost perfect run through the swing states — and he got it, winning Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. The Republican swept to victory over Hillary Clinton in the ultimate triumph for a campaign that repeatedly shattered the conventions of politics to pull off a remarkable upset. Speaking at a victory party in New York, Trump was gracious toward Clinton and called for unity. “We owe (Clinton) a very major debt of gratitude to her for her service to our country,” Trump said. “I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.” He added: “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”

President Barack Obama spoke to President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his victory, the White House said in a statement. Obama invited Trump to meet with him at the White House on Thursday to update him on the transition, the statement said. “Ensuring a smooth transition of power is one of the top priorities the President identified at the beginning of the year and a meeting with the President-elect is the next step,” the statement said. Hillary Clinton also called Trump to concede as the results became clear. “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country,” Clinton said at Wednesday morning’s press conference. “I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans… We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.”

Presidential Election Defies Polls and Expectations

Pollsters flubbed the 2016 presidential election in seismic fashion, notes the USA Today. Donald Trump’s victory dealt a devastating blow to the credibility of the nation’s leading pollsters, calling into question their mathematical models, assumptions and survey methods. Several months of polls pegged Hillary Clinton as the leader in the polarizing race and as the leader in many so-called battleground states. But Trump’s surge crushed the conventional wisdom among pollsters. Early Wednesday, he was far outpacing projections across the board. The results suggest pollsters may have wildly underestimated the number of hidden Trump voters — people who stampeded to the ballot box on Election Day but never showed up on the radar of surveyors. There was one notable exception among pollsters. The Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California tracking poll consistently pegged Trump as the leader throughout the final months of the campaign — much derision from political pundits who are now scrambling for explanations.

U.S. Media Out of Touch with Americans

The American political-media establishment did not understand the depth of anger in its own country, concludes CNN. That is one of the most significant lessons of the 2016 presidential election, in which Donald Trump overcame the doubts of a majority of reporters, pollsters and political scientists who believed Hillary Clinton was headed for a decisive victory. Instead, white rural voters turned out in numbers that few so-called political experts expected, delivering that decisive victory to Trump. Trump’s campaign manager credited the phenomenon of “undercover Trump voters.” “The media are so, so far removed from their country,” said Alec MacGillis, the veteran political journalist who writes for ProPublica. “The gaps have gotten so large. The media are all in Washington, D.C., and New York now thanks to the decline of local and metro papers. And the gaps between how those cities and the rest of the country are doing have gotten so much larger in recent years.”

Trump’s Triumph Resonates in House and Senate Races

Republicans everywhere assumed Trump would be a drag on the party’s hopes of keeping Senate control. He wasn’t. He actually had coattails. The results suggest that there weren’t many split-ticket voters. Republican candidates were terrified prior to the election, but Trump turned out to work well for the party’s advantage. Republicans appear to have control now of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Ballot Measures

In Arizona, Proposition 205 to legalize recreational marijuana was soundly defeated. However, Proposition 206 passed which will increase the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.00 next year and to $12.00 per hour by 2020. Colorado and Maine also voters approved measures phasing in a $12 minimum hourly wages by 2020. In Washington state, where the minimum wage is $9.47 an hour, voters approved a measure raising that to $13.50 an hour by 2020. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. California, Massachusetts and Nevada did vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved measures allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. In Nebraska, voters reinstated the death penalty.

Another hot-button issue — gun control — was on the ballot in four states, including California, which already has some of the nation’s toughest gun-related laws. Voters there approved a measure that will outlaw possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require permits to buy ammunition and extend California’s unique program that allows authorities to seize firearms from owners who bought guns legally but are no longer allowed to own them. Washington state approved a ballot measure that will allow judges to issue orders temporarily seizing guns from individuals who are deemed a threat. In Maine and Nevada, a group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent millions promoting ballot measures that would require background checks on nearly all gun sales and transfers. Both contests were too close to call early Wednesday.

Colorado voters approved a measure that will allow physicians to assist a terminally ill person in dying. That’s already a practice in five other states. Coloradans defeated a proposal that would have set up the nation’s first universal health care system. California voters repealed a nearly two-decade-old law that limited bilingual education in public schools. Washington voters rejected a plan to promote cleaner energy by imposing a tax of $25 per metric ton on carbon emissions from fossil fuels such as gasoline, coal and natural gas.

Protests Break Out in California

Protests erupted in Northern California early Wednesday after Donald Trump was declared the next president of the United States. According to KTVU, about 100 protesters gathered in Oakland and sought to block freeways and create a commotion. The protesters forced BART to shut down and at least one demonstrator was struck by a vehicle. The station also reported that some cars were set on fire and other vehicles had broken windows. Protesters were also seen in Berkeley, chanting “not my president.”

The Shifting Electorate

Barack Obama was catapulted into office eight years ago by what was, at the time, the most diverse electorate in history. The Americans who headed to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots for his successor are even more diverse. Thirty-one percent of eligible voters were racial or ethnic minorities, up from 29% in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. And the share of non-Hispanic white voters eligible to vote will be the lowest in history, the continuation of a steady decline in white voters over the past three decades. In 1988, whites made up about 84% of all voters. Now it’s down to 69%. The Census Bureau projects that no one racial group will be a majority of the country by the year 2044.

World Gasps in Disbelief over Trump’s Election

The world gasped in collective disbelief on Wednesday following the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race, with apprehensive allies seeking to put a brave face on a result they had dreaded and American adversaries exulting in an outcome they see as a potential turning point in global affairs, observes the Washington Post. Within minutes of Trump’s triumph, congratulatory messages poured in from leaders around the world, both friend and foe alike, even as security councils convened emergency meetings and dumbfounded diplomats struggled to understand the implications of Trump’s win. In a Moscow ceremony to welcome new ambassadors, Russian President Vladimir Putin referenced Trump’s call for warmer ties and said “Russia is ready and willing to restore full-fledged relations with the United States.” News of the Republican’s victory was greeted with broad smiles and a round of applause in the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had criticized Trump during the presidential campaign for showing intolerance toward Muslims, said that Trump’s victory was a “positive sign” and the “beginning of a new era in the United States.” But beneath the assurances of business as usual, and even optimism in some quarters, was deep anxiety that Trump’s win could fundamentally unsettle the global order. The terms “shock” and “nightmare,” which were trending on Twitter in Germany, appeared to reflect the sentiment among many observers and politicians in Berlin. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called Trump’s victory a “severe shock.” Concerns were also sharp in Brussels, the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, where Trump had been universally opposed, as well as among key Asian strategic allies such as Japan and South Korea. But China’s state media chortled at how the elections revealed the decline of American democracy.

Obamacare Not Affordable for Middle Class

Obamacare is now a tale of two health insurance programs, reports CNNMoney. For the 85% of enrollees with lower incomes, federal subsidies make the premiums more affordable. Those even closer to the poverty line can get additional subsidies that reduce the deductibles, which can run into thousands of dollars. But for many middle class Americans — a single person earning more than $47,520 or a family of four with an income of $97,200 — the pricey premiums and deductibles mean health care coverage remains out of reach. This schism is turning Obamacare into another government benefit program for lower- and moderate-income Americans, CNNMoney concludes.

Economic News

Last year –for the first time – spending on federal healthcare programs outpaced spending on Social Security, reports Money and Markets. In fact, the government spent $936 billion on health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies related to the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. That’s a massive 13 percent jump from 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In contrast, spending on Social Security totaled $882 billion,

Tesco Bank has halted online banking transactions after fraudsters stole money from 20,000 customer accounts. The banking division of Britain’s biggest supermarket chain said 40,000 accounts had been affected by “online criminal activity” over the weekend, but money was fraudulently taken from only half of the accounts. Tesco said it was suspending online transactions for current (checking) accounts as a precautionary measure. Customers using Tesco’s online support forum were reporting that sums of up to “several thousands” of pounds had vanished from their accounts. Tesco said it was hoping to refund all customers within 24 hours.

The world’s fastest growing economy has woken up to a countrywide bank shutdown. Banks and ATMs all over India were closed on Wednesday, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock decision a day earlier to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — the country’s two largest denominations — from circulation at midnight. Indians use cash for most transactions, and the measures were making it hard for them to conduct business or purchase everyday items. The currency move is an attempt to combat corruption and recover “black money,” billions in illegal funds often stashed overseas by tax evaders. For now, it means an incredible 23 billion notes (more than 80% of those in circulation) are now just “pieces of paper,” as Modi put it during his speech Tuesday. They will either have to be deposited or exchanged. That will have to wait till banks reopen on Thursday when the Reserve Bank of India says it will roll out new higher security 500 and 2,000 rupee notes.

Islamic State

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian forces announced the start of a plan Sunday to retake the Islamic State terror group’s de facto capital of Raqqa — an operation they called “Euphrates Rage.” The statement said 30,000 fighters would take part in the operation. The announcement came as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces had entered the eastern edges of the ISIS-held city of Mosul and were working to push deeper into the last ISIS urban bastion in Iraq. The Kurdish officials said the two campaigns were not coordinated. The SDF is dominated by the main Syrian Kurdish fighting force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The United States considers the group as the most effective force against ISIS, but Turkey views them as a terror organization and claims it’s linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish group. American and Turkish military leaders agreed on a long-term plan for “seizing, holding and governing” the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, following meetings in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday, according to the US Department of Defense’s news service.

Islamic State (ISIS) militants have forced about 1,500 families to retreat with them near Mosul, as Iraqi forces push ahead with their offensive to drive the militants out of their stronghold, the U.N. human rights commission said Tuesday. ISIS militants also abducted 295 former Iraqi Security Forces members from villages on the outskirts of the city, Reuters reports. Speaking at a U.N. briefing in Geneva, Shamdasani said the abducted families, taken from Hammam al Alil town, were being taken to Mosul airport, adding that “[t]he fate of these civilians is unknown for the moment.” The campaign by Iraqi government forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Shi’ite militias supported by U.S. air strikes to push ISIS out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is now in its fourth week. Mosul is the militant’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq.

Environment

Delhi, India’s capital, is choking under off-the-charts smog, with some parts of the city reporting levels almost five times those considered “unhealthy” by the US environmental protection agency. An emergency ruling issued over the weekend saw more than 5,000 schools closed and construction work halted for the next three days. Officials warned that the number of vehicles allowed on the streets may be restricted if the situation does not improve. In Khan Market, one of Delhi’s trendiest areas, shops that specialized in anti-pollution masks were doing brisk business as people queued up to buy some modicum of protection from the toxic smog. On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered to protest outside Parliament in the city center as others voiced their displeasure online, posting to Twitter with the slogan #MyRightToBreathe.

A massive sinkhole formed in the middle of a street in Fukuoka City, Japan, spanning the entire length of the four-lane road and the sidewalks as well. The cause of the sinkhole has not yet been determined. No injuries were reported, despite the large size of the sinkhole in the middle of a busy, business area. Fortunately, it struck early in the morning. By 8 a.m. local time Tuesday morning, emergency crews surrounded the gaping hole, which was partially filled with water. In the vicinity, power outages and a broken gas line were also reported.

Earthquakes

A 5.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sunday near Cushing, Oklahoma, prompting evacuations and school closures. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the tremor occurred at 7:44 p.m. CST at a depth of 3.1 miles. The quake’s epicenter was 1.2 miles west of Cushing in central Oklahoma. The quake was reportedly felt as far away as Kansas City, Missouri, and Arkansas. A few minor injuries were reported. The damage reported in Cushing was primarily in the downtown area. One senior living complex was evacuated. Those residents were transported to a youth center gymnasium.

Wildfires

With little to no rain in recent weeks and prolonged drought conditions affecting much of the Southeast, a spate of wildfires has broken out across much of the region, sending up a blanket of smoke that covers several states. Firefighters in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida are battling numerous wildfires as dry conditions continue to plague areas that are in much need of rain. At least 20 different forest fires spread over 11,000 acres are burning in Eastern Kentucky. Dozens of wildfires in Eastern Tennessee have left a blanket of smoke across much of the area. Hundreds of fires have broken out in Georgia in the past few weeks as drought conditions continue, especially in northern counties. Thousands of acres have burned in Western North Carolina after dozens of wildfires broke out in recent days, according to The Citizen-Times.

Weather

A tornado struck near Rome, Italy, Sunday, killing at least two and injuring dozens. The tornado that struck around 6 p.m. local timeDozens of buildings were damaged in Ladispoli by the twister and an undetermined number of injuries have been reported. Several homes were evacuated amid fears of gas leaks. The Ladispoli City Council announced on Sunday that schools would be closed on Monday. The storm the produced the tornado also brought localized street flooding to Rome.

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