FILE PHOTO: U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price takes questions from reporters at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2021. Carolyn Kaster/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
April 9, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department said on Friday it had issued new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with officials from Taiwan.
“These new guidelines liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan, consistent with our unofficial relations,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in statement. The aim, he said, was “to encourage U.S. government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.”
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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Adelaide United’s Kusini Yengi has expressed support for his club’s push to have racial abusers banned from all elite sporting events, after the young star was vilified following his performance against Melbourne Victory.
Kusini Yengi put in a match-winning performance against Melbourne Victory
After the game, he was racially abused in comments on his Instagram account
He has vowed to continue celebrating goals with gusto
Yengi provided the spark off the bench as the Reds came from behind to win 3-1 on Saturday, scoring one goal and setting up another to seal the win.
It was the first goal of Yengi’s A-League career, with the 22-year-old “running on adrenaline” when celebrating in front of the Victory fans.
Following the match, he was racially abused in comments on his Instagram account, including a post showing gorilla emojis.
Yengi today spoke out about the incident for the first time, saying he “probably wasn’t surprised after the celebration and the way the fans reacted”.
“I kind of thought that this is where it might end up heading. But obviously it’s quite disappointing,” he said.
“After the game there was a lot of good messages, everyone congratulating me and stuff.
The A-League and the police are investigating the incident in a bid to find the culprits responsible.
The Reds yesterday floated the idea of a cross-code ban for people found to racially vilify players.
Adelaide United director of football Bruce Djite said he would be speaking with the Adelaide Crows this week about teaming up in a response against racism.
“We’re going to meet with him on Thursday and discuss that further on what sort of initiatives we can take as professional clubs in South Australia and hopefully that starts to gain momentum,” Djite said.
He suggested a zero-tolerance response to racism from all clubs in the state, and banning those caught from attending any professional sport.
“That would be my approach,” he said.
“If you’re an Adelaide United member and you’re racially vilifying someone, you shouldn’t be allowed to attend any sporting [codes].
“I think that would send a strong message.”
Yengi backed the move, describing it as a “positive idea [that] could help”.
AFL club backs call for broader bans
Adelaide Crows assistant coach Nathan Van Berlo today also threw his support behind the idea, and reiterated his club’s stance on racial abuse.
“[I’d] certainly be supportive of anything that comes in to make sure that we stamp it out because it’s still prevalent in all games, which is disappointing,” Van Berlo said.
Yengi said those responsible for racial abuse should get educated about the harm they cause.
“We’re all humans and we’re all trying to do our best at whatever we do, and giving people negative energy and making comments like that doesn’t help anyone,” he said.
While he wants to move on quickly, Yengi said Reds fans could rest assured that he will continue to celebrate with gusto again whenever he scores.
“No matter what anybody says to me, I’m going to be me and show my character,” he said.
“Everything that’s happened, it’s not going to stop me doing it in the future.”
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Luke Shaw says he regrets “letting down” England boss Gareth Southgate in the past and wants to “focus on the future” with the national team.
Shaw admits he “pulled out of a lot of camps” since his previous appearance against Spain more than two years ago.
“Personally I massively regretted doing that,” he said.
“I think playing for your country is a massive privilege and an honour and I think at times I took advantage of that.
“I didn’t really think about it too much but of course now I just want to forget the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and Gareth’s done that, so we’re just focusing on the future and obviously what’s happening now.”
Shaw, who became one of the world’s most expensive teenagers when he joined United for £27m in June 2014, has struggled with injury during his time at Old Trafford, breaking his leg in 2015 – while hamstring, foot and ankle problems have also curtailed his influence in more recent years.
He had looked set to leave the Red Devils in 2018 following criticism from then manager Jose Mourinho, but has been rejuvenated under the Portuguese’s successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Shaw says he had not been able to “stop thinking of the mistakes” he made over the years, and “especially with England”.
“It was just pulling out when I got to the camp,” he said.
“Around that time, I was maybe not in the best condition but I think over the last two years I’ve thought about it so much – that was my biggest regret.
“And yeah, of course, letting Gareth (Southgate) down. I tried to keep in touch with him just to let him know that things had changed.
“He’s said he’s picked me on merit and how I’ve been performing.”
Shaw said he now wants to continue to impress Southgate, who first called the defender up to a national team when he took over as England Under-21s boss in 2013.
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IN THE PAST year pundits have closely tracked America’s “jobless claims” data, published every Thursday by the Department of Labour to show how many people are newly claiming unemployment insurance (UI). These data once provided invaluable insights: in 1995 Alan Greenspan, then chair of the Federal Reserve, personally intervened to ensure that they continued to be produced during a government shutdown. Yet in the current crisis more people are starting to realise their limitations.
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Somebody seeking UI benefits must file a claim with a state employment office. The claims data were useful early in the pandemic. They are published with a lag of only a few days, so gave an insight into the economic collapse of last March and April long before the monthly jobs report. In those two months claims data suggested that about 30m Americans had filed for UI—in line with later figures on job losses from the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Yet in the past year more than 80m applications have been filed for state UI. Were all applications unique, the data would imply that 50% of American workers had lost their pre-pandemic job. Really? About 20m Americans remain on some form of UI, twice the number officially classified as unemployed. Initial claims for state UI have fallen from the heights of last spring, but even now over 700,000 claims are being filed each week, more than at the height of the financial crisis of 2007-09.
It is possible the claims data reveal that America’s labour market is doing far worse than other statistics show. More likely, the data themselves are flawed.
Why? Early in the crisis wonks warned that initial-claims data would run high long after actual job losses had fallen, because state UI offices were catching up on backlogged applications. A paper last year from the Federal Reserve said “errant claim duplication” may inflate official tallies. Some state offices have made it easier for people working reduced hours—rather than not at all—to claim UI. The government has also allowed more people, including the self-employed and gig-economy workers, to be eligible for payments. Another source of distortion could be widespread fraud.
No one knows the biggest reason why claims are so absurdly high. But this much is clear: to get the measure of America’s labour market, look elsewhere.
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Wild claims”
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J ONATHON ACOSTA wore a blazer with a guayabera, a traditional formal shirt in the Caribbean, on his first day as a senator in Rhode Island’s legislature. Since then he has worn informal attire, a better reflection, he says, of his mainly Latino constituents. He often wears knitted hats and cardigans. The only wardrobe rule said that people must be “properly dressed”. That changed on March 23rd, when the chamber passed a new dress code stipulating “proper and appropriate attire”, such as blouses and collared shirts with a jacket.
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Before the vote, during a lively debate last week in the Senate Rules Committee, Mr Acosta argued that the new rule “connotes white collar, white people”. He wasn’t elected to wear “a costume”, he was elected to legislate. Dominick Ruggerio, the Senate’s president, retorted that he found it offensive when people are not dressed appropriately. Cynthia Mendes, another senator, later observed that the new dress code appears at a moment when Rhode Island has more women and more minorities than ever.
Dress codes are often a reaction to diversity, says Richard Thompson Ford, author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion made History”. Current trends are away from formality in the workplace; Mr Acosta’s wardrobe is similar to that of a Silicon Valley boss. At the same time, the number of dress codes adopted or enforced by schools has increased. Before the pandemic, reports of children being punished for their dreadlocks prompted Cory Booker, a black New Jersey senator, to introduce legislation banning race-based hair discrimination.
Not everyone sees the suit as oppressive. The Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee, a civil-rights group from the 1960s, wore their Sunday best for protests. It was a symbol of defiance. “The African-American in elegant attire was seen as a threat to white supremacy,” says Mr Thompson Ford.
Around two dozen other statehouses have some sort of dress code, as does Congress. Women have been told to cover up their bare arms in the chamber of the House. Some rules are unspoken. Sonia Sotomayor was reportedly advised to wear neutral nail polish to her confirmation hearings as a Supreme Court justice, to avoid scrutiny. After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore big gold hoops at her swearing-in ceremony to Congress in 2019, she tweeted: “Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a congresswoman.”
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “A coded message”
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IT HAS BEEN a bad year for government software. Early in the pandemic, unemployment-insurance systems failed, preventing many jobless from signing up for benefits. Glitchy vaccine-registration software in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida slowed roll-out. Deloitte, a consultancy, was paid more than $40m by the Centres for Disease Control to produce a buggy vaccine-data system. In February whistleblowers reported that prison-administration software was keeping inmates in Arizona locked up past their release dates.
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It is not simply that the pandemic has put a strain on harried government boffins: an oft-cited report by Standish Group, an advisory firm, found that only 13% of large government software projects succeed. The roll-out of America’s online health-care marketplace became a national joke. Hackers stole the records of more than 20m federal personnel. A pricey intelligence system was so awful that paratroopers in Afghanistan begged higher-ups to switch. Such foul-ups are the rule.
Procurement is the first problem. The way government agencies buy things is so complicated that only a few big companies understand the process. Some firms continue to get state and federal contracts even after delivering error-prone systems at fantastic cost. New York chose Xerox to modernise its Medicaid-claims system even though the company had already been sued by Alaska and Texas for allegedly botching similar efforts.
Poorly written contract solicitations make things worse. Requirements are often so restrictive that many eligible firms are instantly disqualified. Contracts may contain no provision for testing. Deloitte’s vaccine-management system might have benefited from more testing: it doesn’t work on some web browsers, and important buttons are hidden on a smartphone.
Many agencies lack the expertise to ensure that complex software projects run smoothly. A government report found that an opaque, drawn-out hiring process was a significant barrier to getting tech talent. Agencies can be penny-wise and pound-foolish, allocating plenty of money for tech contracts but not enough for the staff required to ensure projects are a success.
Bureaucracy doesn’t help. Staffers may want to take advantage of modern technology, but fear falling foul of old rules. During the pandemic, unemployment-insurance and vaccine-registration systems were crushed under the weight of traffic that would have been easily handled by cloud-computing infrastructure. Little thought goes into user experience. In 2018 the poor design of a software interface led a state employee to press the wrong button, issuing a warning that a ballistic missile was incoming to Hawaii residents, who scrambled to text goodbyes to loved ones.
Change is under way. After the failed roll-out of Healthcare.gov, the American government set up 18F, an internal technology consultancy that has created sleek new digital tools, and the US Digital Service (USDS), which deploys tech whizzes to multi-year “tours” in government. Technology Transformation Services, a unit dedicated to improving government tech, has created digital.gov, which provides resources to improve tech literacy across the government. USDS has pioneered SME-QA, a promising new way to hire software developers and other experts.
Mark Lerner, a civic-tech expert, advocates modular contracting—short, bite-sized contracts that are easy to replicate. Spreading tech know-how among contracting officers can stop government from buying lemons. “We need to be building systems”, says Amanda Miklik, a former USDS director of design, “to support contracting officers in being able to sniff out bullshit.” And civic-tech experts agree that government must take user research seriously: the goals of new software must be well defined before contracts are awarded.
A new opportunity arose on March 10th, when the House passed a $1.9trn stimulus package. The bill includes $1bn for the Technology Modernisation Fund (TMF), a vehicle intended to improve federal tech. The hefty sum, a 40-fold increase over TMF’s 2020 figure, is a signal that Congress and the Biden administration take IT modernisation seriously. But unless the government improves its ways, the money could all too easily be wasted. ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Trying to get the hang of IT”
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London: Chelsea beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Sunday to reach the FA Cup semi-finals for the fourth time in five seasons.
The win came courtesy of an Oliver Norwood own goal and a late strike from winger Hakim Ziyech.
The victory at Stamford Bridge extended Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start in London – the German has now won 10 matches and drawn four in all competitions since replacing Frank Lampard in January.
Chelsea have moved into contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League and reached the Champions League quarter-finals, but Tuchel said he witnessed a tired performance from his team on Sunday.
“It sounds excellent to say we’re through to the semis, [but] it was a tough match. We had a good first half where we controlled everything,” Tuchel told the BBC.
“We lost control in the second half, we were clearly tired. After 14 consecutive matches I could feel we were tired and we made many little faults. We were lucky to keep the clean sheet in the second half.”
Sheffield United, bottom of the Premier League, showed early attacking intent but fell behind in the 24th minute when Norwood steered the ball into his own net as he attempted to block Ben Chilwell’s shot.
With the Blades throwing men forward in the dying seconds, Ziyech produced a fine finish after a quick counter-attack to seal Chelsea’s win in added time.
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PASTOR JOHN SMITH presides at the Olivet Baptist church, a towering and handsome structure in Bronzeville, on Chicago’s South Side. He tells a cracking tale of the 170-year history of the city’s oldest black Baptist church. Before the civil war it was part of the Underground Railroad, helping to smuggle escaped slaves to safety. In the Great Migration, a century ago, Olivet helped to attract and settle black families from the South who forged new lives in northern cities.
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The newly arrived routinely made their first stop at Olivet to collect food and clothes, and to learn about finding homes and jobs. The church bloomed as “the place you could go” to meet practical and social needs, not only spiritual ones. In effect it became America’s first megachurch by the late 1920s, with some 15,000 members.
Those new arrivals were registered as voters and African-Americans emerged as an influential bloc in city politics. “We have always been engaged in the struggle for the liberation of black people,” says Pastor Smith. His church still promotes a “social gospel”, seeking a real-world impact.
Olivet’s story reflects that of the black church as a whole. In a PBS television series devoted to the story of the church nationally, broadcast in February, Henry Louis Gates junior, a prominent intellectual, called it “the seminal force in shaping the history of African-Americans”. It did the most to spread literacy among black Americans, even during slavery. The first schools and universities for African-Americans in the South, which have since grown into the historically black colleges, were founded inside churches.
One of America’s first black congressmen, Richard Cain, was a minister in South Carolina, elected in 1872. Black consciousness grew in churches during the Jim Crow era, as ministers in Georgia in the 1890s declared God to be black. Many such churches were part of the civil-rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Raphael Warnock, who was elected in January in Georgia as the first black Democratic senator from the South, is the latest incarnation of a reverend-politician. His victory was aided heavily by church activists, especially women.
Yet the power of the church is waning. In the face of Black Lives Matter protests, it has floundered. Pastor Smith concedes he is still unsure how to respond to the street activists. Young African-Americans infuriated by police violence did not wait for a charismatic leader to come from a church, says Shayla Harris, a film-maker. Instead, “they take it on themselves”.
At Olivet interest in the church has been falling for years. Today Pastor Smith counts just 250 people as members, most of them elderly. And though he has taken to live-streaming services and has ginned up Olivet’s website and Facebook pages, he says that his church suffered “because it lost the young generation”.
This is true across much of the black church. The PBS series dwelt on a glorious history, but touched only briefly on the church’s more recent troubles. “The real question is does the church have a central role now?” says Ms Harris, who co-directed the documentary. She notes how the institution is increasingly fragmenting, it is “not a monolith”, and may better be talked about as a collection of many churches. Too many of these have failed women, who cannot “shatter the stained-glass ceiling”. They still fill pews and raise funds, but it is almost always “men in their 50s” who preside, complains Terri Laws, a scholar of the black church, based in Detroit.
A Pew Research Centre survey, published in February, found younger African-Americans ever less involved in churches. One in three black millennials (or younger) say they are not affiliated to any church, and around half of all black youngsters attend one rarely or never; among the oldest, only a quarter skip church. As for youngsters who still attend one, they are keener than their elders on multiracial congregations, not exclusively black ones. In time, even the idea of a black church may fade.
Ryan Burge, at Eastern Illinois University, tracks trends among atheists and the non-affiliated in “The Nones”, a new book. He says black millennials are following a path that white and other Americans already trod, but “there is more stigma for the black community in moving away.” Among young adults of all races, only 11% shunned church in the early 1980s; today the rate is nearly three times higher. Walter Fluker, at Emory University in Atlanta, says many black churches “have become haunted houses”, with leaders who are far too slow to respond to matters such as police violence or debates on gay rights.
The pandemic, Mr Fluker says, brought a moment for black churches to make themselves relevant again. Conservative church leaders badly failed to respond to the AIDS crisis from the 1980s onwards, which especially afflicted African-Americans. This time round the church has seen coronavirus especially hurt black people, who have been infected, hospitalised and killed at unusually high rates.
Some churches have taken again to the idea of a social gospel. “Covid created a wonderful opportunity,” says Pastor Smith, noting how Olivet tries to ease fear of vaccines by getting nurses to speak to his members. Church leaders, such as Al Sharpton, have lauded the safety of the vaccines in an effort—one that looks broadly successful—to reduce vaccine hesitancy among African-Americans. More such efforts to improve the lives of their followers would be a reminder that the churches are still a force to be reckoned with. ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Haunted houses”
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AS AN INDISPENSABLE fan of George W. Bush’s approach to India, Joe Biden, the then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said his “dream” was that by “2020 the two closest nations in the world will be India and United States.” For much of the intervening time they have looked more like two English-speaking nations separated by a strategic partnership.
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Mr Bush’s approach to India, which involved bringing its nuclear industry into the global fold, among other opportunities for co-operation, was based on its future potential to balance China, not its feebler present. Yet he often seemed to confuse the two. “The classic opportunity for our American farmers and entrepreneurs and small businesses…is there is a 300m-person market of middle-class citizens here in India!” he marvelled. It is a sentence that, 16 years on, still exaggerates the number of Indian consumers and their government’s willingness to let foreign firms near them.
Indian reticence has been a more serious speed-brake. Politically fractious and preternaturally suspicious of self-interested foreigners, India does not want to be part of anyone’s strategic calculations. It took Mr Bush’s counterpart, Manmohan Singh, a year and a confidence vote to get the nuclear component—a geopolitical gift-horse—through parliament. The last of four “foundational” defence agreements, precursors to the enhanced military and intelligence ties Mr Bush envisaged, was signed last October.
Yet notwithstanding the hobbling effects of these differences, rising concern about China on both sides has driven pretty steady progress. Barack Obama set aside concerns about Narendra Modi’s association with communal bloodshed to work with him on climate change, while dismantling barriers to military and other technology transfer. Donald Trump set the relationship into reverse on trade, immigration and education ties, yet pushed defence and intelligence ties even harder. India’s increasingly public receptiveness to that approach was apparent after America provided it with intelligence and cold-weather gear during clashes between Indian and Chinese border guards last year.
America has done less for some of its allies, a status India still recoils from, yet increasingly enjoys the benefits of. The inaugural summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a grouping of America, Australia, India and Japan, held on March 12th, illustrated this. It also highlighted the opportunity Mr Biden will have to deepen the relationship, and how he means to try.
Formed in 2004 to manage disaster relief after a tsunami, the “Quad” was repurposed by Dick Cheney as a military club, then abandoned in 2010 because Australia and India considered it too antagonistic to China. After years of creeping Chinese aggression, that is less of a worry in both countries, hence the Trump administration—to its credit—revived the group in 2017. It has since held ministerial meetings, and a joint naval exercise in 2020, before last week’s meeting signalled Mr Biden’s bigger plans for it.
The Trump administration toyed with an idea that the Quad might develop into an Asian NATO, underlining its emphasis upon security co-operation. By contrast, reviving American outreach on trade, immigration, public health, climate change and so forth is Mr Biden’s goal. The fact that the Quad summit concluded with the adoption of the group’s most concrete agenda since the tsunami, a plan to boost vaccine production and supplies for the region, was indicative of that. The idea is for America, Japan and Australia to provide cash to help India, which already makes 60% of the world’s vaccines, amp up production.
How much this might bother China, which once criticised the group as mere “sea-froth”, is open to question. Yet it suggests the Biden administration is serious about its stated intention to counter China through alliances, based on shared values, and that it sees the Quad and India as central to that. The group’s loose, voluntary design and adoption of an agenda that downplays China, while promoting Indian capability, also looks well-designed to bind India in. It caters to the country’s past insecurities and current ambitions, a useful combination.
The administration has similar plans for the bilateral relationship. It means to sustain the momentum its predecessor set on security: Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary, will visit Delhi this week. And it believes the Trump administration’s neglect of other sorts of co-operation provides a chance to make eye-catching progress. Mr Biden has already scrapped a Trump effort to restrict the number of foreign—including Indian—students.
This will not all go smoothly: the broadening of the relationship will uncover as much residual tension as opportunity. India is unlikely to become less protectionist even if America does. The recent defence co-operation is belied by India’s unimpressive efforts to modernise its antiquated forces and attachment to cheap Russian kit. Its scheduled receipt of a Russian air-defence system later this year, for which it will be liable for American sanctions, is already causing headaches. A new report by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, suggests such frictions could induce an American rethink: “A chorus of voices in Washington…have begun more vocally expressing anxieties about whether the value and sustainability of US engagement with India has been oversold.”
Sino the times
There is little doubt that the relationship has been oversold in the past—including by Mr Biden. Yet his administration’s early work on it has provided a context in which the inevitable frictions should be understood. In Tony Blinken at the State Department and Jake Sullivan at the National Security Council, as well as Mr Biden himself, the administration already has more experience of dealing with India than any of its predecessors. And it has made elevating US-India relations central to its plans. As China looms ever larger for both countries, the relationship has never looked more important or robust. ■
See also: We are tracking the Biden administration’s progress in its first 100 days
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Joe Biden’s passage to India”
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SAUNDERS, A HIGH-END real-estate firm, sold and rented $2.3bn worth of property in the Hamptons last year. Calvin Klein, the panjandrum of pants, sold his beach house there for $84.4m. Well-heeled New Yorkers go to the string of small towns on Long Island to throw frisbees on the beach and compare Picassos in their kitchens. They are not universally thrilled by the Shinnecock Nation’s plans to build a casino on their reservation in Southampton.
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Jay Schneiderman, the town supervisor, is “totally opposed” to the planned site. “I cannot think of a worse location to build a casino,” he said. Congestion, already bad on the single road into the Hamptons, will get worse. Fred Thiele’s opposition was gentler. The state assemblyman acknowledges the Nation’s right to build on its sovereign land, but thinks it is nonetheless a bad idea. He expects opposition to grow, and not just among the gilded summer residents. The not-rich year-round residents, like teachers and landscapers, will oppose it, too. Some are worried about the environmental impact of the proposed casino. The tribe finds this thinking a bit precious. They are not the ones who built McMansions and a golf course on sacred land.
The existence of a 900-acre (364-hectare) Native American reservation 90 miles from Manhattan is not widely known. Though the folks who helicopter in to their summer homes may not realise it, the Shinnecocks have always been there. According to legend they are the children of a goddess who created land on the back of a giant turtle. The Nation now reckons building a casino on the turtle’s back would bring economic development.
It has good reason to think so. Median household income rose 34% between 1990 and 2010 for Native Americans living on reservations. Gaming, which expanded on reservations during this period, probably played a big role in that. About half of the 574 federally recognised tribes have some sort of gambling facility, ranging from casinos to bingo halls and slot machines at petrol stations.
“Gaming has become the economic lifeblood for many native and non-native communities,” says Jonodev Chaudhuri, former head of the National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency. It provides funding for social services and health programmes and has an economic impact beyond the reservation’s borders. A study by the American Gaming Association estimates that the positive economic impact is over $100bn a year (though, given the source, that is no great surprise).
In the wake of the epidemic, tribal leaders across the country are having discussions about diversifying income. Some are looking at renewable energy. The Shinnecock Nation has explored shellfish harvesting, smoke shops (tobacco sold on reservation land is exempt from state tax), a medical-cannabis outlet and roadside billboards. Casino money would help kick-start other ventures. “It takes money to make money,” reckons Miriam Jorgensen, of the University of Arizona’s Native Nations Institute. Most New Yorkers would at least agree with that. ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “White shoes and slot machines”
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