World in Brief
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House Approves Deal to Avoid Potential Rail Strike
The House voted 290-137 Wednesday to force an end to negotiations between the railroads and their unions with a pair of bills designed to draw concessions from both sides. One bill codified the higher wages the railroads were offering. In a separate bill, the House voted 221 to 207 to implement mandatory sick time as part of the deal, a nod to worker demands for more paid time off that railroads were unwilling to relent on.
The decision to turn to Congress to remedy the situation did not initially sit well with the railroad unions. The successful amendment, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, came on the heels of bipartisan criticism of President Joe Biden's support of a deal without concessions for paid time off, a deal-breaker that earned scorn from progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alongside conservatives like Sen. Josh Hawley.
TL/DR: Biden has called for Congress to "immediately" adopt a tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators to avoid a "potentially crippling national rail shutdown."
What happens now? The two bills now head to the Senate. If a deal is not reached by the approaching Dec. 9 deadline, the inaction could have a devastating impact. A strike could cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion per day while negatively affecting GDP and increasing inflation. There could also be a disruption to commuter services for nearly seven million travelers a day and also delay in transporting goods across the country.
Hakeem Jeffries Elected to Lead House Democrats
Hakeem Jeffries was unanimously elected as the leader of House Democrats, making him the first Black American and the youngest congressional leader to hold such a high-ranking position. "Humbled to be elected incoming House Democratic Leader. Ready to get to work," 52-year-old Jeffries said. Additionally, California Representative Peter Aguilar, 43, was elected as the chairman of the House Caucus, and Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, 59, to serve as House whip.
The new generation of leaders will replace positions held by 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who has led House Democrats for the last 20 years—and her team, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, 82. The announcement comes when the Republicans are getting ready to take control of the House. The Democratic unity comes in sharp contrast to that seen among Republicans, who are struggling to regroup around Kevin McCarthy—who wants to become the next speaker.
TL/DR: "This new generation of leaders reflects the vibrancy and diversity of our great nation – and they will reinvigorate our Caucus with their new energy, ideas, and perspective," House Speaker Pelosi said.
What happens now? The trio led by Jeffries will take on their new roles when the Congress convenes on January 3, 2023. The election of an assistant leader and some other posts is expected today. Jeffries, who worked as a House manager during Donald Trump's first impeachment said: "We’re still working through the implications of Trumpism and what it has meant, as a very destabilizing force for American democracy." Although Jeffries hopes to find "common ground" with Republicans, Democrats will "oppose their extremism when we must," he said.
It’s All Completely FTXed
"I've had a bad month," Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), founder of the crypto-exchange FTX, told a New York Times audience last night. The laughter from the crowd about perhaps one of the biggest understatements of the year was one moment of light around his $32 billion-valued company going bankrupt, becoming the subject of at least two federal investigations, and the mystery of $515 million that was transferred from FTX after filing for bankruptcy.
Despite the legal cases being "not what [he's] focusing on," authorities in the U.S., Turkey, the Bahamas, and elsewhere are all investigating. Everything he says on social media and in these types of events can (and very likely will) be used as evidence against him by officials. "He just cannot stop talking about it," Ephrat Livni, of the New York Times, said. "He can't seem to relinquish control of the story or imagine a time when his explanations may be unwelcome."
TL/DR: After being told to be quiet by his Stanford law professor parents, crypto-exchange CEO Sam Bankman-Fried said: “That’s not who I am.”
What happens now? SBF is currently in the Bahamas but says he could return to the U.S. without legal risk. He does move around a lot, so it’s not *that* unusual, but it shows the difficulty in one country regulating start-ups operating as cross-border nomads. SBF is still adamant that FTX creditors can “be made whole.” This will likely take years — if it’s even possible at all.
Biden Walks NATO Tightrope with Turkey over Wars in Syria and Ukraine
NATO ally Turkey is threatening a ground offensive against U.S. partners in Syria while simultaneously playing a key diplomatic role in Russia's war in Ukraine. This makes a tricky balancing act for the Biden Administration. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's offensive is because of what he believes is the persistent presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). "[Any offensive is] a threat to the safety of civilians and U.S. personnel in Syria," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. The timing of this comes with the Turkish elections next year alongside the global focus on Russia.
"The Western position is not as strong as it was before the fighting started in Ukraine," Newroz Ahmed of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said. Turkey emerged as a host to early Russia-Ukraine talks that ultimately unraveled, then brokered a deal allowing the release of critical grain exports held up in Ukrainian ports. As a NATO member, Turkey also gets a vote on major decisions undertaken by the alliance, including a recent decision to admit Finland and Sweden.
TL/DR: Turkey is threatening a fifth ground offensive in around five years in Syria, while brokering deals between Russia and Ukraine
What happens now? Both Turkey and the SDF accuse one another of backing terrorist organizations as Syria's civil war drags on through its 12th year. With the admission of Sweden and Finland into NATO, Erdogan has concerns about how the Nordic states view the PKK. "Turkey, Sweden, and Finland are engaging directly, as well as with NATO, to make sure that Turkey's concerns are fully addressed, including concerns about its security," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "I'm very confident – and again, based on what I've heard these last couple of days – that Finland and Sweden will soon be formally new members of the alliance."
U.N. Urges Qatar To Launch Probe into Migrant Deaths
The U.N. is calling on Qatar to investigate the true scale of the deaths of migrants working on 2022 World Cup projects leading up to the tournament. It comes just hours after Qatar World Cup Chief Hassan Al-Thawadi admitted that "between 400 and 500" people had died during the preparations. Organizers previously said 40 people have died, of which only 3 were "work-related."
Thawadi's announcement follows a Guardian report which revealed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka had died since Qatar snagged a controversial bid to host the tournament. The country has been preparing for the big moment for 12 years, building stadiums and infrastructure to house 64 games and with it, supporters. However, workers were subjected to dangerous and squalid living conditions, were paid low, had their salaries withheld, and even had to pay to change jobs.
TL/DR: "We urge the State of Qatar to investigate deaths of migrant workers, to collect transparent and comprehensive data on the causes of these deaths," Liz Throssell of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, told Newsweek.
What happens now? Although government records show that 17,000 migrant workers have died since 2010, over half of them have been attributed to "unknown causes," "natural causes" or "cardiovascular diseases." Such vague categorization has made it difficult to determine whether the migrants died on the job. Human rights groups have accused Qatar of improperly investigating and issuing death certificates. Many are believed to have died at labor camps. Amnesty has urged FIFA to compensate migrant workers by setting aside $440 million, an amount that matches the World Cup prize money.
Prince William's Godmother Quits Royal Role After Racist Comments
Queen Elizabeth II's former lady-in-waiting quit the palace over racially charged comments to a black charity boss. Lady Susan Hussey asked Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, "where do you really come from?" despite having already been told she was British. Fulani said on Instagram it was "insulting" while witness Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, told Newsweek it suggested "institutional racism."
Hussey was recently appointed to the honorary position of "Lady of the Household" by King Charles in recognition of her service to his late mother. The role would have seen Hussey called upon to assist in hosting palace functions such as the event attended by Fulani. The saga is the latest of several racial storms to engulf Buckingham Palace since Meghan accused an unnamed royal of racist comments about her unborn child in March 2021. This one is unique, however, in the speed at which decisive action was taken, with an investigation seemingly announced and concluded within a single 100-word statement.
TL/DR: "We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details. In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
What happens now? Prince William must now conduct a major U.S. visit to Boston to promote the Earth shot Prize against the backdrop of a new palace race scandal involving none other than his own Godmother. His spokesperson condemned the comments, which Buckingham Palace said were "unacceptable.
'I Was Friends With Rosa Parks—I Knew a Side of Her Most People Didn't See'
In my mind's eye, every day should be Rosa Parks Day because of who she was, what she stood for, what she believed in, and how she treated people. From the day that I met her, she was always more than people remember her for, yet she remained grateful for all she had until the day that she passed.
I was privileged to spend the better part of a decade with Mrs. Parks as her "host" at my residence, The O Museum in the Mansion, in Washington, D.C., and as her traveling companion. There was never a day during that time that I didn't learn something about life and resilience from her.
Mrs. Parks came into my life following a phone call in 1994 from someone who identified himself as Brother Willis Edwards, the head of the Beverly Hills chapter of the NAACP. His request was simple, but I could tell from the tenor and urgency in his voice, heartfelt. Could his friend, Mrs. Parks, stay with us at the Mansion and Museum for a few days, he asked.
WHAT TO WATCH IN THE DAYS AHEAD
- All eyes will be on the non-farm payrolls figures at 8:30 a.m. ET. Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans is due to speak on regulations at 10:15 a.m. ET.
- Prince William's annual environmentalism Earthshot Awards ceremony will take place in Boston. The event will honor individuals and organizations for promoting climate change.
- Early voting continues in Georgia ahead of the Dec. 6 U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
- Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to make his regular-season debut against his former team, the Houston Texans on Sunday. Watson was accused of sexual misconduct and served an 11-game suspension this season. Several of his accusers will be present at the game.