Best columns: The U.S.
Echoes of Putin’s propaganda
The Washington Post
Russian state TV is warning that if Hillary Clinton is elected, the U.S. will get into a nuclear war with Russia. Strangely enough, Donald Trump is echoing that same message, said Anne Applebaum. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton!” Trump told supporters last week. Clinton has suggested she would create a no-fly zone to protect civilians being slaughtered by genocidal dictator Bashir al-Assad and his Russian allies. In response, Russian czar Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up his threats, hoping to “persuade us to abandon Syria” and let Russia do what it did in Chechnya: “kill tens of thousands of people, flatten the landscape, destroy all political alternatives, and then start again, with a Russian-backed dictator.” Putin clearly prefers Trump, who says he will seek “to get along” with the dictator. That’s why Russian hackers are feeding Clinton campaign emails to WikiLeaks. But no matter who wins, Putin may be planning to exploit our post-election chaos to launch a new offensive: “a land grab in Ukraine, a foray into the Baltic states, a much bigger intervention in the Middle East—anything to ‘test’ the new president.” If that president is Trump, don’t expect any objections.
Proof that wage laws backfire
The Boston Globe
Minimum-wage hikes on four state ballots next week will only hurt the people they’re meant to help, said Jeff Jacoby. “The Law of Demand is about as fundamental an economic axiom as there is”—force up the cost of employing workers and fewer workers get hired. “Aglow with self-righteousness,” liberals proclaim that it’s impossible to live on an hourly wage of $8.25. Perhaps, but it’s “even more unbearable to live on an hourly wage of $0.” That’s what many low-skilled workers will earn when the higher cost of labor dissuades employers from hiring, or compels them to cut staff. A University of Washington study found that after Seattle officials adopted a $15 an hour minimum wage, it created “unintended, negative side effects on hours and employment.” A similar increase in Washington, D.C., caused Walmart to cancel plans to build two new stores there. Restaurants in the nation’s capital shed 1,400 jobs in the first half of 2016, “the steepest six-month decline in 15 years.” Mandating higher pay for the poor sounds noble, but it backfires on the most vulnerable workers, who find it hard to find any job. “Minimum-wage hikes make it even harder.”
Social media’s fake news problem
“The plague of fake news is getting worse,” said Brian Stelter, and in no environment is that phenomenon more apparent than in this year’s bitterly divisive election. Over the past year, bogus news sites and hyperpartisan social media users have tricked or misled people on Facebook, Twitter, and partisan websites into believing false or misleading “news” stories about the political opposition. Some hoax sites pose as reputable mainstream sources—as with one recent fake “ABC News” story reposted by Eric Trump, headlined “Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: ‘I Was Paid $3,500 to Protest Trump’s Rally.’” Other misleading stories make it onto Facebook’s official “trending” news page, where they are given the aura of legitimacy and “shared over and over again.” This phenomenon is particularly common among partisans on both the Right and Left with a conspiratorial view of the world, because they are so willing and eager to buy into any story that reinforces their entrenched beliefs. Sadly, the hoax-news epidemic only serves to insulate millions of voters from the truth—and to turn an already acrimonious campaign even nastier. Instead, the next time you see a dramatic news headline that seems a little too good to be true: “Double, no, triple check before you share.”
“Trump has appealed to white identity more explicitly than any national political figure since George Wallace. But whereas Wallace was marginalized first within the Democratic Party, and then within national politics, Trump has increasingly been accommodated. Yes, Trump was often fiercely denounced by rivals and insiders in the earlier part of the campaign. But since effectively securing the nomination , that criticism has quieted. Trump is running not to be president of all Americans, but to be the clan leader of white Americans. Those white Americans who respond to his message hear his abusive comments, not as evidence of his unfitness for office, but as proof of his commitment to their tribe.”
David Frum in TheAtlantic.com
It must be true...
I read it in the tabloids
■ The world’s first bar for treating hangovers has opened in Amsterdam. The Hangover Bar is open from Friday to Sunday and features all the comforts you need to recover from a night of alcohol-fueled partying, including cozy beds, vitamin-packed smoothies, and an oxygen bar to speed recovery. To enter, patrons must first fail a Breathalyzer test, in order to prove that they were overserved the night before.
■ A British expat living in Beijing is cashing in on the city’s notoriously polluted air by canning it. Dominic Johnson-Hill started selling smog-filled cans dubbed Beijing Air as a “joke,” after seeing that sniffable canisters of fresh, “pure” air from countries like France and Canada were popular among residents of the Chinese capital, where pollution regularly reaches dangerous levels. Hundreds of cans of Beijing Air now sell every day, at about $4 a pop, to both foreign tourists and homesick Chinese living abroad. “When I really miss Beijing, I will open a can and sniff it,” said engineer Zhang Haiming.
■ A Spanish scrapyard owner whose inventory kept getting burgled has replaced his guard dogs with bullfighting bulls. Emilio Cervero said his second-hand auto parts yard in Montserrat, Spain, near Valencia, was broken into seven times over the past_few months, and that several of his guard dogs simply ran away after thieves cut holes in his chain-link fence. So he_recently released a pair of toros bravos, the breed of bulls used in Spanish bullfighting, to patrol the yard and scare off intruders. “All I am trying to do is protect my property,” Cervero said.