The rich world needs higher real wage growth

CENTRAL bankers and economists have spilled much ink in recent years on the question of why wages have not grown more. The average unemployment rate in advanced economies is 5.3%, lower than before the financial crisis. Yet even in America, the hottest rich-world economy, pay is growing by less than 3% annually. This month the European Central Bank devoted much of its annual shindig in Sintra, Portugal to discussing the wage puzzle.

Recent data show, however, that the problem rich countries face is not that nominal wage growth has failed to respond to economic conditions. It is that inflation is eating up pay increases and that real—that is, inflation-adjusted—wages are therefore stagnant. Real wages in America and the euro zone, for example, are growing more slowly even as the world economy, and headline pay, have both picked up (see chart).

The proximate cause is the oil price. As the price of Brent crude oil, a benchmark, fell from over $110 a barrel in mid-2014 to under $30 a barrel by January 2016, inflation tumbled, even turning negative in Europe. That sparked justified worries about a global deflationary slump. But it was an immediate boon for workers, who saw nominal pay increases of around 2% translate into real wage gains of about the same size. (An exception was Japan, where a rise in the sales tax from 5% to 8% in 2014 squeezed wallets.)

Since then, nominal wage growth has gradually picked up as labour markets have tightened, roughly in line with the predictions of economists who use broader measures of slack than just the unemployment rate. But inflation has risen in tandem with wages, as the oil price has recovered to close to $75 a barrel. That means many workers are yet to feel the benefit of the global economic upswing that began during 2017. In America and Europe, real wages are growing barely faster than they were five years ago, when unemployment was much higher. 

In the long run, changes in real wages are linked to changes in workers’ productivity, which has grown slowly everywhere since the financial crisis. In the year to the first quarter of 2018, for example, American productivity grew by only 0.4%. But some spy a rebound. For current forecasts of blazing economic growth in America to bear out, productivity must grow faster. In the second half of 2017, productivity in Britain grew at the fastest rate since 2005. The Bank of Japan thinks that firms there are investing heavily to boost productivity so that they do not have to pay for higher wages by raising prices. 

Yet even a recovery in productivity would not guarantee good times for workers. In recent decades the share of GDP going to labour, rather than to capital, has fallen because real pay has increased more slowly than productivity. In advanced economies labour’s share fell from almost 55% to about 51% between 1970 and 2015, according to researchers at the IMF. A widely heard explanation is that a fall in union membership, combined with rising offshoring and outsourcing, has eroded workers’ bargaining power. More recently, economists have suggested that labour’s falling share could be linked to the rise of “superstar” firms such as Google that dominate their markets and have low labour costs relative to their enormous profits. 

Reversing the fall in labour’s share of GDP would require real wages to grow faster than productivity, weighing on firms’ profit margins. Continued tightening in labour markets might yet boost workers’ bargaining power enough for that to happen, as was the case during the late 1990s and late 2000s, two unusual periods in which labour’s share of GDP rose across the rich world. There is still room for improvement. For instance, even where unemployment rates are low, the number of part-time workers who want full-time jobs remains unusually high. This continues to weigh on wage growth, according to an analysis by the IMF late last year.

Some countries, such as Italy, still suffer from unemployment rates that are far higher than they were before the financial crisis. Such pockets of slack might constrain wages everywhere now that goods are produced in international supply chains and sold on global markets. In a recent working paper, Kristin Forbes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that the influence on inflation of global slack and commodity prices has grown in the past decade, while local economic conditions have become less important. Philip Lowe, the governor of Australia’s central bank, told the audience in Sintra that when he asks firms that are struggling to find workers why they do not pay more, they “look at me as if I’m completely mad” and deliver a lecture on how competitive the world has become.

If slack were eliminated everywhere, pay might rise faster. The question is whether inflation continues to rise in tandem as companies find that, when push comes to shove, they can pass higher costs onto their customers. If they can, there is little hope for much improving workers’ lot in real terms. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates in response to a perceived inflationary threat. The European Central Bank, too, is tightening, saying that it will probably stop asset purchases at the end of the year. Mario Draghi, its president, points to growth in hourly pay of 1.8% as a justification for the move.

That seems a little hasty, given workers’ lamentable fortunes in recent decades. But hawks think there is little room to boost real wages by running labour markets hotter. If they are proved right, it will be hard to refute the argument that structural changes in the economy, rather than weak demand alone, have stacked the deck against workers. Governments will then have to find novel ways to respond—or hope for another crash in the oil price.

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Will Kennedy’s Retirement Help Republicans At The Midterms?

The most important effects stemming from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement will be on how the Supreme Court rules on landmark cases on issues ranging from abortion to gerrymandering. But there are fewer than 20 weeks between now and the midterm elections, and Kennedy’s announcement also has the potential to affect the composition of the next Congress.

Betting markets see the news as a wash as far as the midterms go. But betting markets are sometimes pretty dumb, so let’s work our way through a pair of decent arguments I’ve seen for why Kennedy’s retirement is more likely to help Republicans than Democrats politically:

Argument No. 1: Kennedy’s retirement will help Republicans close the “enthusiasm gap”

One way that Kennedy’s retirement could help Republicans is by narrowing the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. Here’s how National Review’s David French puts it:

Heading into the midterms, Republicans were desperately worried about an “intensity gap.” Democratic voters seem prepared to turn out in huge numbers. Republicans — while holding firm in their support for President Trump — lacked the same excitement. Special elections were swinging strongly Democratic, and even though the generic preference numbers were trending closer, most observers thought Republicans would struggle to get their voters to the polls. I’d say those concerns are eased a bit today.

After all, for an immense number of base GOP voters, judges aren’t just an issue. They’re the issue that drives them to the polls. Republicans are all over the place on immigration policy, trade policy, and foreign policy. Divisions in the party are deep and real. Those divisions disappear when judges are on the line. We can debate all we want about Russian influence on the 2016 election (or about the effect of the Comey letter), but one thing is certain — if Evangelicals and other conservatives weren’t afraid of the impact of a progressive Supreme Court on their fundamental liberties, Donald Trump doesn’t win. A new Supreme Court pick will galvanize the entire base for months.

This is a well-argued case. French is certainly right that an enthusiasm or intensity gap is a massive risk for Republicans. If the midterm elections look more like the special elections we’ve had so far this cycle, in which Democratic turnout significantly outpaced Republican turnout, the GOP is very likely to lose the House and the Democratic wave could reach epic proportions. But without that enthusiasm gap, control of the House looks like more of a toss-up, at least based on the current generic ballot average.

Democratic candidates will undoubtedly also try to use the Supreme Court as a wedge issue. If and when Trump’s nominee is confirmed, these candidates will pivot to telling their voters about how a Republican-chosen replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who is 85 years old) or Stephen Breyer (79) would be an even bigger problem and how it’s therefore crucial that Democrats take control of the Senate.

The catch, though, is that the Democratic base is already very motivated: Motivated by the Russia investigation, by Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, by Trump’s overall unpopularity, and so forth. They might not need the additional motivation of a Supreme Court nomination, whereas Republican voters perhaps do.

Also, there’s some evidence Republican voters are more motivated in general by the Supreme Court than Democratic voters are. In the 2016 national exit poll, 21 percent of voters said that Supreme Court appointments were the most important issue to their vote, and they split 56-41 for Trump.

But let me pick a few nits with French’s claim. One questionable assertion is his idea that “a new Supreme Court pick will galvanize the entire [Republican] base for months.” That may understate how many other stories the Supreme Court pick will compete with for attention. The news cycle moves very quickly these days, and Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court last year was a major news story for only a couple of weeks. The death of Antonin Scalia and the Republican refusal to consider Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland also did not gain much traction as a news story in the 2016 campaign given how much else was going on.

Perhaps, as the exit-poll data implies, the Supreme Court was an overlooked issue in 2016 that was more important to evangelical voters and other parts of the Republican base than the media assumed. But it was not necessarily a top-of-mind issue to these voters. The exit poll question specifically prompted voters to think about the Supreme Court. But when Gallup and other pollsters ask open-ended questions about what issues are most important, the Supreme Court doesn’t really register. Nor does abortion, for that matter — issues such as immigration and the economy are rated as being much more important.

Also, assuming Trump has his choice confirmed by the Senate before the midterms, the Supreme Court will arguably be more of a backward-looking issue in 2018 than it was in 2016. I say “arguably” because Kennedy probably won’t be the last justice to retire under Trump; liberals Ginsburg and Breyer are retirement risks, as is conservative Clarence Thomas. Still, in 2016, voters were deciding on an open Supreme Court seat and not just the prospect of further vacancies.

Finally, even if base motivation is crucial in midterm elections, it’s worth considering its effect on swing voters. In 2016, voters preferred Hillary Clinton’s prospective Supreme Court appointments to Trump’s. Despite that, Gorsuch was a reasonably popular nominee last year. But he was replacing another conservative justice, whereas a replacement for Kennedy could potentially produce a big ideological shift in the court. For instance, If Democrats can frame Trump’s nominee as threatening Roe v. Wade, they could find public opinion on their side, as voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade by more than a 2-to-1 margin. The nomination is also coming against the background of a midterm election, and voters tend to view the ruling party skeptically at the midterms, seeking to elect members of the opposition party to check its power.

Argument No. 2: Kennedy’s retirement forces red-state Democratic senators to make a tough vote

Five Democratic Senators — Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Montana’s Jon Tester, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — are up for re-election this November in states that Trump won by double digits in 2016. There’s also Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, who isn’t up until 2020 but who already has to carefully calibrate his positions in one of the nation’s reddest states. As the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein argued, these Democrats are in a tough position:

The difficulty faced by red state Democrats is that even in a more conservative states, a substantial portion of their base is going to be fiercely anti-Trump, and opposed to any of his judicial nominees. At the same time, particularly in the very red states (Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, and West Virginia) where Trump won big, it’s going to be really difficult to vote “no” on a qualified Supreme Court nominee.

While it won’t be an easy vote for any of these Democrats, especially so close to the midterms, there are also some mitigating factors for them. One is that other than Jones, all of the senators already voted on Gorsuch, with Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly voting aye and McCaskill and Tester voting nay. If in doubt, they could just vote the same way on Trump’s next nominee.

Another is that it could plausibly be to these Democrats’ advantage to demonstrate their centrist and independent streak by voting for Trump’s pick. Heitkamp, for instance, has already run ads bragging about how often she votes against Democrats and with Trump’s position. Sure, the Democratic base would be upset with her — but there aren’t a lot of Democratic base voters in states such as North Dakota, and almost all these states have already held their primaries anyway.

Finally, there’s one Republican who’s potentially put in a tough position by Kennedy’s retirement. That’s Nevada’s Dean Heller, who voted for Gorsuch, but who faces a tough re-election race in a state that isn’t known for its cultural conservatism. And unlike the Democrats, Heller’s vote could fairly easily prove to be decisive. Republicans don’t have much margin for error with only a narrow 51-49 advantage in the Senate, and they have possible issues with senators ranging from Maine’s Susan Collins (who might object to a nominee she saw as a threat to overturn Roe) to Arizona’s John McCain (who could miss the vote because of illness).

The Gorsuch nomination went well for Trump, but this one could be tricker

So the arguments for why Kennedy’s retirement could be a political boon for Republicans are persuasive — but only up to a point. And they seem to be using Gorsuch’s nomination as a template for how things will go this time around when that won’t necessarily be the case.

Gorsuch’s nomination was one of the most successful episodes of Trump’s presidency; he was a fairly popular selection with swing voters, but also one who pleased conservative activists. Republicans were also able to “nuke” the Supreme Court filibuster with relatively little backlash, perhaps in part because Democrats had already ended it for most other types of nominations.

Supreme Court nominations are not always cakewalks, however, as cases such as Harriet Miers and Robert Bork (and Clarence Thomas) attest. There are several potential risks to Trump and Republicans:

  • Trump could nominate a relatively moderate justice, in an effort to keep Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski on board and to put maximum pressure on red-state Democrats, but then face a backlash from conservatives.
  • Trump could nominate someone very conservative, but at the price of actually putting votes such as Collins’s and Murkowski’s at risk and of turning off swing voters.
  • Trump could nominate someone who had vetting issues, or someone who triggered a debate about qualifications, or someone who was seen as too much of a political crony. Historically, these sorts of justices have had trouble getting confirmed.

On balance, Kennedy’s retirement probably offers more political upside than downside for Republicans, but it’s a long way from a slam dunk. And this is not a White House where things always — or usually — go so smoothly as they did with the Gorsuch pick.

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Hundreds of marches across America to protest Donald Trump’s family separation policy

Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and boiling mad against US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump’s hardline policy.

Dubbed “Families Belong Together,” the demonstration in Washington began at Lafayette Square where crowds gathered directly across from the White House before a planned march toward the Capitol. 

In New York, families, young people, children and the elderly – both recent arrivals and long-time citizens – all stood under a burning sun as part of a protest which a police officer said already numbered “a couple of thousand.”

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” they chanted, also declaring a welcome for Muslims.

A band of drummers whipped up the fervor of a crowd carrying signs including, “Our New York is Immigrant New York,” and “No Cages, No Ban, No Wall.”

“Abolish ICE,” said another sign, reflecting growing calls by activists for abolition of the country’s frontline immigration enforcement agency.

Starting in early May, in an attempt to staunch the flow of tens of thousands of migrants to the southern US border every month, Trump ordered the arrest of adults crossing the boundary illegally, including those seeking asylum.

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Top Tory warns ministers to unite or risk a Corbyn government | UK news

The leader of backbench Conservative MPs has made a dramatic plea to warring cabinet ministers to unite at a crucial Chequers meeting this week – or risk a botched Brexit and a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

Writing in the Observer, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, suggests that ministers should learn lessons in discipline from their backbench colleagues, after an extraordinary week of infighting at the top of government. Without an outbreak of unity at Chequers on Friday, he says the British people risk being sold short on Brexit and having to endure the “disaster” of a Labour government led by Corbyn.

“The danger of disunity at the top of the party is not just that it makes the prime minister’s job more difficult in negotiations with Brussels, and therefore puts at risk the good Brexit deal that is in reach,” Brady writes. “It also gives an impression of division to the country. Electorates these days are volatile, but one thing is certain: they do not vote for divided parties. They rejected decisively the divided Tory party in 1997. If we were to let Labour in again, it would be a disaster for this country.”

He adds: “It’s not just backbench Conservative MPs who expect ministers to pull together behind Theresa May: the great swathe of the electorate, which either voted Leave or voted Remain but recognises that a united team will achieve a better trading relationship for the future than a divided one, expects it too.”

His intervention follows a week in which cabinet ministers have openly disagreed about the Brexit process and also allowed disagreements over domestic policies and the overall direction of the party to burst into the open. The squabbles appear to be affecting Tory supporters’ views on who their next leader should be with Sajid Javid topping a poll for ConservativeHome – the first time the Home Secretary has done so since the website revived its monthly survey following the election.

With tensions rising before the Chequers showdown, where ministers are due to approve a final position on arrangements for customs and trade post-Brexit, it emerged on Saturday that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, had torn up a copy of May’s plan for a customs partnership with the EU at a meeting with other key figures in the Brexit debate.

Earlier in the week the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that it was “completely inappropriate” for big businesses to make their views known on the dangers of a hard Brexit, only to be immediately slapped down by the business secretary, Greg Clark, who said their views should be respected and listened to. Ahead of the Chequers meeting, to be attended by all cabinet ministers, May has vowed to rule out any major concessions over freedom of movement after Britain leaves the EU, in a move that risks seriously limiting her ability to win a soft Brexit deal from Brussels.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said it was ‘completely inappropriate’ for big businesses to talk about hard Brexit. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex

The prime minister will use the meeting to warn that time is running out to secure a deal and prevent the UK from crashing out of the bloc with no agreement in place.

Over recent days there have been suggestions that the government would consider rules limiting the right of EU nationals to come to Britain to those with a solid job offer. However, sources said Downing Street was “not in that market”.

“In the build-up to Chequers, there has been some speculation that the UK is willing to allow free movement to continue as part of the negotiations,” said the source. “The PM is clear that such a decision would not respect the will of the British people in the referendum.”

The latest draft of a white paper that will form the basis of the UK negotiating position is said to contain a commitment that Britain would keep its manufacturing regulations “substantially similar” to those used by Brussels. Senior Brexiters said they were happy with the wording, stating that there was nothing binding the UK to those regulations.

Senior sources in Brussels say, meanwhile, that May is using her political weakness as leverage in the Brexit talks, with British negotiators warning the EU of what could happen without a generous offer from the bloc on future trade.

The UK government has resorted to spelling out that the parliamentary arithmetic means that without a “precise and substantive” offer from the EU, it is likely that the prime minister will not be able to muster the votes in favour of the total agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.

EU sources say the tactics highlight just how desperate the UK government is and how precarious the negotiations have become. EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday expressed their growing anxiety at the cabinet divisions and the lack of progress, which have increased the chances of a no-deal outcome.

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An all-female scouting troop of refugees in Aurora is defying stereotypes and expanding horizons

A group of teenage girls gather tight in a cluster, smiling, giggling and whispering. They pose for selfies, pucker their lips and quickly check the photos.

“All right, girls, let’s gather up and get in line,” said Jamie Stanley, 34.

The girls quiet down and approach Stanley. Their gaze turns toward her as she instructs them to lift their hands to mirror hers. It’s the Boy Scouts of America sign — three fingers up, with the little finger touching the thumb. One by one, the girls study their hands. Stanley reassures them, “That’s right.”

The girls lift their bags and load them into vehicles. Not long into the drive, they request their first musical choice: Justin Bieber. They’re just like many other teenagers, with one exception – they’re an all-female refugee scouting troop.

“This particular Venturing crew is unique – not only is it one of three all-girl crews in the state of Colorado, but it is also one of athe first in the country that welcomes refugee girls who are learning what it means to be American in a fun and adventurous way,” said Boy Scouts spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos.

P.J. Parmar, 43, founded this particular crew, who are in the Boy Scouts’ Venturing program for boys and girls ages 14-20. As a child, Parmar was an Eagle Scout. Today, he’s a primary care doctor in Aurora and owner of Mango House, a shared space for refugee services. In 2014, Parmar started Boy Scout Troop 1532, which consists of boys from refugee families. He knew he wanted to extend it to girls, too.

“There’s absolutely no reason boys should get to do something that girls can’t,” Parmar said. “It’s that simple.”

Last year, Boy Scouts announced that girls will be able to enroll into its Cub Scout program and can go on to earn the Eagle Scout award. According to BSA, the name of the organization remains the Boy Scouts of America, but the name of the Boy Scout program will become Scouts BSA in February, when chartered partners can choose to establish single-gender troops of girls. Parmar said he plans to add elements of traditional Boy Scouts into the refugee scouting crew in the future as the national organization welcomes girls.

“The BSA’s decision to welcome girls into the Cub Scout program and to offer a program for older girls comes from input we have received from our Scouting families, as well as prospective Scouting families,” said Delimarkos. “More and more, we are hearing from communities interested in learning how Scouting can build bridges for children – connecting new cultures, experiences and adventures.”

Parmar agrees.  “It’s everything we do (at Mango House),” he said. “It’s about equity and equality, usually ethnic or economic. Gender equality is a big piece of what we do.”

Nirshika Neopany, a 14-year-old member of the crew, appreciates being able to participate in the program. She is a refugee from Nepal. Her family moved to the Denver area in 2012.

“Life was really hard (in the refugee camp), and my parents were really poor,” she said.

Nirshika is energetic and smiles often, but she grows serious when talking about her past.

Asked what she liked most about coming to the U.S., she responds with a smile, “Freedom. We have more freedom here.”

Nirshika Neopany, 14, left, and Dechen ...

Ross Taylor, Special to The Denver Post

Nirshika Neopany, 14, left, and Dechen Drukpa, 14, center, laugh together after returning to their campsite in Hooper, Colo. on Sept. 3, 2017.

The program has taken the group to places near Denver and as far away as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. For many, it’s their first time camping. During the campouts, leaders such as Parmar and Stanley teach them basic outdoor skills, while also fostering leadership skills. But finding volunteers, Parmar said, is difficult.

“The main challenge we have is finding enough adult leaders,” he said. “The vast majority of leaders in scouting are usually the dad, or the mom, of the kid. We don’t have that. Our situation is unique.”

Their parents, he said, are working. “They work jobs that are odd hours, and often on the weekend.”

During a recent campout trip, Stanley steers the black passenger van toward the turnoff for the sand dunes, listening to the girls laugh, smile and lean into one another as they sing along to the radio.

Stanley looks in the rearview mirror and smiles.

“In many ways, I was a lot like them,” Stanley said. Now an implementation specialist for a tech company, she said she’s thankful for the help she received at a young age.

“I was an at-risk youth, but I had women who invested their lives in me,” she said. “It’s because of what they did, that I was given opportunity. So, it’s kind of a pay-it-forward for me, especially for these girls.”

A lot of inner-city refugee families don’t know what’s available to them, she said. “They can be anything, instead of being stereotyped into one role.”

Volunteering with the program has made Stanley “more empathetic,” she said. “I don’t understand the anti-immigration and anti-refugee stance. I believe this country is the second chance, the second hope. That’s the true American dream.”

Stanley looked out the window, then back to the rearview mirror at the girls.

“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t feel safe (regarding immigrants).’ It’s harder to say these words when you look at those eight behind me,” she said. “They’re typical teenagers — they have hopes, they have dreams.”

At the end of a recent campout, the girls circle around a fire for warmth. It’s getting cold, with temperatures slipping into the 30s. Even though they shiver, they laugh often and share their hopes for the future.

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Reno-Sparks tourism tops 5 million for first time since 2007

RENO, Nev. (AP) – The number of visitors to Reno-Sparks and Washoe County over the past year topped the 5 million mark for the first time since 2007.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority and area policymakers cite several factors for the increased visitation for fiscal year 2017, the Reno Gazette Journal reports . They range from a strong U.S. economy to a renewed push to market the Reno-Tahoe area and buzz from the arrival of high-profile companies such as Apple, Google and Tesla.

When the visitors authority started tracking guests in 2002, the area was in the midst of an economic boom that saw nearly 5.7 million tourists. Once the housing bubble popped five years later amid a nationwide recession, tourism took a big hit.

Visitor counts fell by nearly a quarter to as low as 4.3 million in 2011.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is among those who say the new numbers validate Nevada’s economic recovery.

“We’re in the midst of a renaissance right now, but what’s important is that it’s sustainable,” Sandoval said.

The visitors authority gained some stability with the selection of a new CEO in 2016, former Safari Club chief Phil DeLone.

It also recently decided to address concerns about its venues underperforming by hiring professional third-party management firm SMG Worldwide Entertainment to oversee facilities such as the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and National Bowling Stadium. Besides managing various convention centers, SMG oversees the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and NRG Stadium in Houston.

Big deals the visitors authority recently landed include the return of the Safari Club International convention – the biggest trade show ever held in Reno – after it left for an extended stint in Las Vegas.

It also managed to take the Interbike convention from its traditional home of Las Vegas and bring it to Reno-Tahoe for the first time. The bicycle trade show has seen attendance drop in recent years after hitting 25,000 participants in 2015, but is projected to either rival or surpass Safari Club numbers for its upcoming show.

Visitors authority Vice President of Sales Mike Larragueta says interest in Reno was a lot stronger during the U.S. Travel Association’s annual convention last year in Denver, which was attended by 1,000 travel organizations and about 1,300 domestic and international buyers.

“We struggled to get accounts to meet with us in the past, but we ended with 84 appointments over three days, which is unheard of for us,” Larragueta said. “It’s not us, it’s the destination. For the first time ever, we’ve become relevant.”

With taxable room revenue jumping from $231.5 million during the 2012 fiscal year to $347.4 million during the 2017 fiscal year, the visitors authority has seen a corresponding rise to its marketing budget.

In 2012, the organization’s sales and marketing budget totaled $1.6 million, limiting the number of markets where it could run marketing campaigns. For the upcoming fiscal year, its board approved a sales and marketing budget totaling nearly $10.7 million.

That’s still small compared with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which sets aside $95 million of its $140 million sales and marketing budget for advertising alone in the city 42.2 million people visited last year. But for a market Reno’s size, it’s a big investment.

The funding boost allowed the organization to expand marketing in Seattle, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The visitors authority also increased its regional sales representatives to nine and regional offices to eight, including in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Chicago.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal,

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Illinois Democrats push back on Trump immigration hard line

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly pushed back last spring against Republican President Donald Trump’s hardline stance on immigration, aiming to protect Illinois residents regardless of their residency status and, in some cases, firing off direct repudiation of the nation’s top executive.

Illinois is not alone. State-level legislation related to immigration increased 110 percent during Trump’s first year in office, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures . Many directly dealt with immigrant and refugee rights as well as with compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Here’s a look at policies Illinois lawmakers approved in their spring session, all of which await action by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.



State-funded facilities, including courthouses and public schools, would be encouraged to limit all efforts to enforce federal immigration law. The initiative follows reports of ICE agents making arrests at courthouses in Chicago and across the country.

Already, local law enforcement can’t cooperate with ICE unless there’s a federal criminal warrant, thanks to a law from last year.

The new plan by Sen. Don Harmon takes it one step further by encouraging state employees to limit their cooperation with immigration agents. The Oak Park Democrat agrees it’s modest, but he hopes it eventually leads to a prohibition on such cooperation.

“We want people in Illinois, notwithstanding their immigration status, to feel comfortable taking their children to the doctor or attending a parent-teacher conference,” Harmon said. “There’s understandably an enormously high level of angst about the over-the-top immigration police efforts from the federal government.”

The idea is in line with a 2011 ICE memorandum advising agents to avoid enforcement at “sensitive locations” including schools, day cares and medical facilities. But neither the ICE advisory nor Harmon’s legislation prohibits cooperation.



Trump faced withering criticism as a candidate in 2016 when he said he would entertain the idea of tracking refugees and Muslims residing in the country. Trump has backed off the idea, but Illinois legislation would prohibit participation in a registry of information solely on a person’s race, religion or gender identity.

To local immigration advocates, the legislation has taken on new significance following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this past week upholding the president’s authority to restrict travel into the U.S. based on a person’s country of origin.

The anti-registry measure is a strong condemnation of an attempt to “single people out solely based on their religion, national origin, or other characteristics,” said Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.



Other legislative efforts would expand protections for immigrants already in Illinois.

One initiative would allow anyone to apply for a professional license regardless of immigration status. That means applying to become pharmacists or teachers, for example, without having to provide proof of citizenship. It was approved on party lines in the House, with Republicans objecting that immigrants who are in the country illegally are breaking the law and shouldn’t be allowed to apply.

Sen. Iris Martinez, the sponsor, said many immigrants are able to work here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, which exempts those brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to end the program. Martinez wants to end the uncertainty for many of the so-called Dreamers.

“We have so many of our DACA students graduating from our universities,” said the Chicago Democrat. “We want to assure that they will not have any problems when it comes to their profession.”

Another measure would prevent landlords from harassing or evicting tenants solely based on immigration or citizenship status. And a third would streamline the process for immigrants who are victims of crimes or domestic violence to gain temporary citizenship.

All of the efforts are a small step toward combating a “broken” immigration system that doesn’t provide a comprehensive path to citizenship, said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel for the Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“Rather than stupidly trying to enforce the immigration laws to punish everyone regardless of their individual circumstances or what they add to this country,” Tsao said, “we should be extending those opportunities for these people to become full members of our society.”


The bills are SB35 , SB3488 , SB3109 , SB3103 and SB34 .


Follow Sarah Zimmerman at

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Major cities, tiny towns host immigration policy protests

They wore white. They shook their fists in the air. They carried signs reading: “No more children in cages,” and “What’s next? Concentration Camps?”

In major cities and tiny towns, thousands of marchers gathered across America, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the latest act of mass resistance against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“I’m hoping that decent human beings come together, and enough is enough, we’re taking out country back over, that evil is not going to prevail,” said Patricia Carlan, a grandmother of nine from Danville, Indiana, among hundreds who gathered at her state’s capital.

More than 700 planned marches drew hundreds of thousands of people across the country, from immigrant-friendly cities like New York and Los Angeles to conservative Appalachia and Indiana to the front lawn of a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, near a detention center where migrant children were being held in cages.

There, people held American and Texas flags and signs depicting a migrant father, mother and child as the Holy Family with haloed heads traveling through the desert.

In New York City, Trump’s hometown, thousands of marchers poured across the Brooklyn Bridge in sweltering 90-degree heat, chanting “shame!” and “Donald Trump must go!” Drivers honked their horns in support.

“It’s important for this administration to know that these policies that rip apart families —that treat people as less than human, like they’re vermin— are not the way of God, they are not the law of love,” said the Rev. Julie Hoplamazian, an Episcopal priest marching in Brooklyn, whose own grandparents fled to the U.S. during the Armenian genocide.

“Jesus was a refuge,” she said.

In Washington, a massive crowd gathered in Lafayette Park across from the White House in what was expected to be the largest of the day’s protests.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical “Hamilton,” sang a lullaby dedicated to parents who are unable to sing to their children. Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys brought her 7-year-old son, and read a letter written by a woman whose child had been taken away from her at the border.

“It’s upsetting. Families being separated, children in cages,” said Emilia Ramos, a cleaner in the district, fighting tears at the rally. “Seeing everyone together for this cause, it’s emotional.”

Around her, thousands waved signs: “I care, do you?” some read, referencing a jacket the first lady wore when visiting child migrants amid the global furor over the administration’s zero-tolerance policy that forced the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents. Her jacket had “I really don’t care, do U?” scrawled across the back, and that message has become a rallying cry for Saturday’s protesters.

“We care!” marchers shouted outside city hall in Dallas. Organizer Michelle Wentz says opposition to the administration’s “barbaric and inhumane” policy has seemed to cross political party lines. Marchers’ signs read “Compassion not cruelty” and “November is coming.”

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to show his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid calls from some Democrats for major changes to immigration enforcement.

Tweeting from New Jersey, Trump said that Democrats “are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit.”

Though many who show up to the rallies across the country were seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others were new to immigration activism, including parents who say they feel compelled to show up after heart-wrenching accounts of children forcibly taken from their families as they crossed the border illegally. In Portland, Oregon, for example, several stay-at-home moms have organized their first rally while caring for young kids.

“I’m not a radical, and I’m not an activist,” said Kate Sharaf, a Portland co-organizer. “I just reached a point where I felt I had to do more.”

Immigrant advocacy groups say they’re thrilled to see the issue gaining traction.

“Honestly, I am blown away. I have literally never seen Americans show up for immigrants like this,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents nannies, housekeepers and caregivers. “

All across the country, groups came together in city parks and downtown squares, and photos quickly started ricocheting around social media.

Some carried tiny white onesies. “What if it was your child?” was written on one. “No family jails,” said another.

Other protesters converged on the international bridge that carries traffic between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. They carried signs with slogans like “We are all immigrants” as they chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great.”

Marchers gathered in Raleigh, in Pittsburgh, in Louisville, in Houston, in Antler, North Dakota, population 27.

Margarita Perez held up a Mexican flag as speakers addressed the crowd in Albuquerque. She said she was worried about the children taken from their families, and their parents left without knowing how to find them.

“Those children that they are incarcerating and separating, they are our future generations. We need to provide for these children,” she said. “They will be our future leaders.”

The city’s Democratic mayor took the microphone and declared they were there to “resist,” and the crowd erupted in a roar.


Associated Press reporters Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Emily Schmall in McAllen, Texas, Amy Taxin in Los Angeles, Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, Ryan Tarinelli in Dallas, Bob Lentz and Ron Todt in Philadelphia, Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, and Julie Walker, Michael Sisak and Gillian Flaccus in New York City contributed to this report.

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Thailand cave rescue efforts pick up pace as flooding eases

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — The effort to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a cave in Thailand for a week picked up pace Saturday, as a break in the rain eased flooding in the system of caverns and more experts from around the world joined the rescue mission.

The search effort in the northern province of Chiang Rai has been going slowly, largely because flooding has blocked rescuers from going through chambers to get deeper into the cave.

Pumping out water hasn’t solved the problem, so increasing efforts have been made to find shafts on the mountainside that might serve as a back door to the blocked-off areas where the missing may be sheltering.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the sprawling Tham Luang Nang Non cave after a soccer game on June 23, but near-constant rains have thwarted the search for them. Authorities have nevertheless expressed hope that the group has found a dry place within the cave to wait, and that they are still alive.

Reflecting that hope, a medical evacuation drill was held Saturday morning to see how long it would take to get rescued people out of the cave, into 13 ambulances and to the nearest hospital.

Australian police and military personnel were deployed Saturday to join other multinational teams, including U.S. military personnel and experts from a British cave exploration club.

China has sent a six-person team of rescue and disaster experts to the cave, the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok announced Friday. The group has experience in lifesaving rescues in Myanmar and Nepal, the embassy’s statement said.

A second, private Chinese group, calling itself Green Boat Emergency, arrived Saturday. “Our skills are search and rescue on mountains and in caves. We hope we can help,” said Wang Xudong, a member of the group.

Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said the falling water level in the cave has helped the rescue effort considerably.

“Today the situation is much better and we have high hopes, and will be here all night,” he said early Saturday evening.

Thai navy SEAL divers have been crucial to the search, but have been stymied by muddy water reaching the cave’s ceiling, forcing them to suspend operations again and again.

With water levels dropping, they resumed dives Saturday, re-entering a chamber from which they had retreated earlier in the week.

In addition to pumping out the flooded chambers, there have been efforts to find the source of the water flooding the cave in order to drain or divert it.

Chaiwat Dusadeepanich of the Department of Groundwater Resources said Saturday that his team, which has been drilling for two days, found a small underground water source near the cave.

“But the water flow rate isn’t great enough,” he said. “We would have to drill in deeper to get to the source, but at least we found it. Hopefully we can start pumping out the well water by the end of today.”

Hopes were also high for finding some kind of access through fissures on the mountainside that might lead to shafts into the cave.

“Yesterday our team climbed into one shaft, and went in around 50 meters (yards),” said National Deputy Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta. He said the shaft had led to two separate chambers so far.

“Today we will re-enter the second chamber that we found and try to find passages that could lead to other chambers,” Wirachai said.

Officials said Friday that they were dropping care packages into the shafts in hopes the missing might retrieve them. Each package contains food, beverages, a phone, a flashlight, candles, a lighter and a map of the cave.


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How NBA free agency could indirectly impact Denver Nuggets

Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has talked repeatedly in recent weeks about his team’s “arc,” the natural trajectory of a young core that he hopes pushes Denver back into the playoffs in 2018-19.

As free agency opens once the clock crosses midnight Sunday morning, the Nuggets lack the financial flexibility to make a flashy signing. But the moves made by other teams — and some of the league’s marquee stars — could dramatically shift Denver’s place in the Western Conference’s pecking order.

“Free agency is determined by the biggest players — always,” Connelly said. “Then there’s a domino effect. When you approach a summer, not talking specifically about any players, but with potentially elite players who can choose new destinations, it makes for a fun offseason. It oftentimes, too, kind of puts the secondary guys on hold.”

This year, those dominoes are spearheaded by LeBron James. On Friday, the game’s premier talent declined his player option with Cleveland for next season in order to become an unrestricted free agent.

That has only enhanced the buzz that he could join the Los Angeles Lakers, a flagship franchise that has not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season, with some combination of Paul George (who is also a free agent) and/or Kawhi Leonard (who has reportedly requested a trade from San Antonio). Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, a Lakers legend, recently proclaimed that he would step down from his post if he failed to lure top-flight talent to Los Angeles in the next two summers.

But if the Lakers ascend into the playoff picture because of superstar additions, San Antonio and Oklahoma City could slip. And given the razor-thin margin between the third through ninth seeds throughout last season’s Western Conference playoff race, teams such as Portland, New Orleans and Minnesota don’t feel like givens to return to the postseason.

Boston and Philadelphia are also reportedly in the mix to trade for Leonard, while the 76ers have been floated as a possible destination for James and/or George. Finals MVP Kevin Durant and Chris Paul are the other high-profile unrestricted free agents, though it is believed they will re-sign with Golden State and Houston, respectively. Also on the market are big men DeMarcus Cousins, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, and DeAndre Jordan, who declined his player option Friday.

The second tier of unrestricted free agents includes role players Trevor Ariza, JJ Redick, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Favors and Avery Bradley. Clint Capela, Marcus Smart and Jusuf Nurkic are among the top restricted free agents, meaning the team they most recently played for can match any offer from another club.

The Nuggets’ biggest personnel domino essentially fell last week. Denver declined its team option for star big man Nikola Jokic, making him a restricted free agent and able to sign a max extension with the Nuggets on July 6. Attempting to re-sign versatile swingman Will Barton is also a priority. But with Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million) exercising their player options, little-used forward Kenneth Faried on the books for $13.8 million this upcoming season and Gary Harris’ lucrative extension beginning in 2018-19, the Nuggets will be well over the luxury tax line if they do not make a salary-dump trade.

The Lakers could be the team to take on some of that the Nuggets’ “bad money.” The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps reported late last week that Denver and the Lakers have discussed a potential deal that would send a future draft pick and either Faried, Arthur or Chandler to Los Angeles.

The Lakers could then use that draft pick as part of a trade to land Leonard.

Which could make Los Angeles a more enticing destination for James.

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