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Iran: ‘hijab’ protests challenge legitimacy of Islamic Republic

The autocratic regime of Ayatollah Khamenei is coming under pressure like never before.



Giving the regime the finger: students protest in Isfahan, Iran. Reddit

Three weeks after the violent death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police for the crime of wearing her hijab improperly, protests continue to rage across the country. These demonstrations defy both repression by security forces in the streets of major cities and restrictions on the internet. They challenge the legitimacy of a hardline regime whose authority appears to be eroding by the day.

Read more: Iranian women burning their hijabs are striking at the Islamic Republic's brand

Activists inside Iran and analysts outside it assess that these protests could be the most serious challenge to the regime since millions took to the streets after the disputed 2009 presidential election.

There have been recurrent nationwide demonstrations since then. In December 2017, ten days of rallies were spurred by economic conditions as well as the compulsory hijab law. In November 2019, up to 1,500 people were killed during four days of protests sparked by a sudden rise in petrol prices. At the local level, there are demonstrations over pay and working conditions, the environmental situation, and detentions.

In these cases, though, the mass rallies have ebbed after a few days. Following their shows of anger and demands for rights, Iranians apparently returned to resignation over their economic hardship and lack of political agency and social freedoms.

In contrast, the current protests have not receded so far, despite the regime’s use of force and attempts to shut down communications.

This is not this just a display of resistance from one group, or a movement led by men. Women, some of them taking off or not wearing the hijab, have been prominent and there have been large gatherings at universities and schools.

The regime has not been able to close down the movement with a staged counter-protest, as it did with mass rallies in December 2009. A government-organised demonstration after Friday prayers on September 23 brought out only tens of thousands, far from the “millions” proclaimed by the state media.

As always with mass protests, Iranian authorities have tried to portray the rallies as plots orchestrated by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, “mercenaries” and “terrorists”. But so far, no attempt to tear down the protests has gained the upper hand. The vast majority of demonstrations have been non-violent and the expression of Iranians, rather than the work of devious foreign elements.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader tipped off his concern. In Ali Khamenei’s first public comments on Amini’s death, which he called “a tragic incident that saddened us”, he claimed:

The recent riots and unrest in Iran were schemes designed by the US; the usurping, fake Zionist regime; their mercenaries; and some treasonous Iranians abroad who helped them … How can some people not see the US and Israel’s hands in this event?

The demonstrations have widened beyond Amini’s death. The compulsory hijab is a marker of concerns about the regime’s social restrictions on women and on all Iranians. The chants of “women, life, freedom” point to the campaign for political agency.

Read more: Iran protests: majority of people reject compulsory hijab and an Islamic regime, surveys find

Demonstrators emphasise that this is a movement with “no leader”, which raises a challenge beyond the short-term. How long can the spontaneous pursuit of rights continue without organisation? Should a specific platform, beyond abolition of compulsory hijab and of the “morality police”, be produced? Still, the demonstrations have pulled the curtain back on a regime which rules by coercion and patronage rather than acceptance.

Hardliners versus discontent

The mass marches in 2009 highlighted the discontent of many Iranians, as well as their aspirations for a system not manipulated by the supreme leader through his functionaries and the Revolutionary Guards.

The regime was able to shut down those aspirations but it has not conquered discontent. The economic situation in Iran has deteriorated throughout the past 13 years. Inflation is officially at more than 52%, with higher rises for food and other essentials. There has been only a small increase in GDP after declines of 6% to 7% in 2018 and 2019. Only one-third of jobs lost during the COVID pandemic have been recovered. This week, the Iranian currency set a new all-time low against the US dollar of 42,229.5:1.

The 2015 nuclear deal offered a window of opportunity for recovery. But that soon narrowed and was shut in 2018 by the Trump administration’s withdrawal and its expansion of US sanctions. The renewal of that agreement has been stalled for months over Iranian demands such as strict limits on inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, the regime takes an even harder line at home. After his miscalculation led to the unexpected victory of the centrist Hassan Rouhani in the 2013 presidential election, the supreme leader used the new president as a firewall. Khamenei allowed Rouhani to take the blame for economic difficulties and for the failure – because of the hardliners’ stonewalling – to deliver social reforms.

In 2021, Khamenei and the hardliners consolidated their domestic position. They used a “managed election” put the head of judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, into the presidency. But now they have no firewall against the mounting problems of Iranians.

Welcome to isolation

Khamenei’s regime is increasingly isolated. The stalemated nuclear talks means there is no prospect of renewed links not only with the US and Europe but also much of Asia.

China is happy to take discounted Iranian oil but cautious about political ties. India is looking to Khamenei’s “enemies” – joining the US, Australia and Japan in the Quad alliance – rather than allying with Tehran. In the Middle East, the regime is contending with an unstable situation in Iraq, and talks for reconciliation with Saudi Arabia are making slow progress.

Perhaps most importantly, a vaunted alliance with Russia is tethered to Vladimir Putin’s failing invasion of Ukraine. Far from seeing an economic boost, Iran finds itself handcuffed to another heavily sanctioned system which could soon be in upheaval.

Khamenei has insisted that: “Whenever the enemies plan on creating unrest anywhere, it will be the courageous and faithful people of Iran who will stand up to them the most.”

Unfortunately for him, the courageous and faithful on the streets of Iran beg to differ.

Scott Lucas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Costco Tells Americans the Truth About Inflation and Price Increases

The warehouse club has seen some troubling trends but it’s also trumpeting something positive that most retailers wouldn’t share.



Costco has been a refuge for customers during both the pandemic and during the period when supply chain and inflation issues have driven prices higher. In the worst days of the covid pandemic, the membership-based warehouse club not only had the key household items people needed, it also kept selling them at fair prices.

With inflation -- no matter what the reason for it -- Costco  (COST) - Get Free Report worked aggressively to keep prices down. During that period (and really always) CFO Richard Galanti talked about how his company leaned on vendors to provide better prices while sometimes also eating some of the increase rather than passing it onto customers.

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That wasn't an altruistic move. Costco plays the long game, and it focuses on doing whatever is needed to keep its members happy in order to keep them renewing their memberships.

It's a model that has worked spectacularly well, according to Galanti.

"In terms of renewal rates, at third quarter end, our US and Canada renewal rate was 92.6%, and our worldwide rate came in at 90.5%. These figures are the same all-time high renewal rates that were achieved in the second quarter, just 12 weeks ago here," he said during the company's third-quarter earnings call.

Galanti, however, did report some news that suggests that significant problems remain in the economy.

Costco has done an incredibly good job at holding onto members.

Image source: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

Costco Does See Some Economic Weakness

When people worry about the economy, they sometimes trade down when it comes to retailers. Walmart executives (WMT) - Get Free Report, for example, have talked about seeing more customers that earn six figures shopping in their stores.

Costco has always had a diverse customer base, but one weakness in its business may be a warning sign for its rivals like Target (TGT) - Get Free Report, Best Buy (BBY) - Get Free Report, and Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report. Galanti broke down some of the numbers during the call.

"Traffic or shopping frequency remains pretty good, increasing 4.8% worldwide and 3.5% in the U.S. during the quarter," he shared.

People shopped more, but they were also spending less, according to the CFO.

"Our average daily transaction or ticket was down 4.2% worldwide and down 3.5% in the U.S., impacted, in large part, from weakness in bigger-ticket nonfood discretionary items," he shared.

Now, not buying a new TV, jewelry, or other big-ticket items could just be a sign that consumers are being cautious. But, if they're not buying those items at Costco (generally the lowest-cost option) that does not bode well for other retailers.

Galanti laid out the numbers as well as how they broke down between digital and warehouse.

"You saw in the release that e-commerce was a minus 10% sales decline on a comp basis," he said. "As I discussed on our second quarter call and in our monthly sales recordings, in Q3, big-ticket discretionary departments, notably majors, home furnishings, small electrics, jewelry, and hardware, were down about 20% in e-com and made up 55% of e-com sales. These same departments were down about 17% in warehouse, but they only make up 8% in warehouse sales."

Costco's CFO Also Had Good News For Shoppers

Galanti has been very open about sharing information about the prices Costco has seen from vendors. He has shared in the past, for example, that the chain does not pass on gas price increases as fast as they happen nor does it lower prices as quick as they sometimes fall.

In the most recent call, he shared some very good news on inflation (that also puts pressure on Target, Walmart, and Amazon to lower prices).

"A few comments on inflation. Inflation continues to abate somewhat. If you go back a year ago to the fourth quarter of '22 last summer, we had estimated that year-over-year inflation at the time was up 8%. And by Q1 and Q2, it was down to 6% and 7% and then 5% and 6%," he shared. "In this quarter, we're estimating the year-over-year inflation in the 3% to 4% range."

The CFO also explained that he sees prices dropping on some very key consumer staples.

"We continue to see improvements in many items, notably food items like nuts, eggs and meat, as well as items that include, as part of their components, commodities like steel and resins on the nonfood side," he added.


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Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Discriminating against fat people is now illegal in New York City, after…



Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Discriminating against fat people is now illegal in New York City, after Mayor Eric Adams on Friday signed off on a ban that will affect not only employment, but also housing and access to public accommodations -- a term that encompasses most businesses. 

We're in safe company using the word "fat," as champions of the cause refer to themselves as "fat activists." With the mayor's signature, two more categories -- both weight and height -- are added to New York City's list of protected personal attributes, which already included race, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation. 

As Mayor Adams signs the law, self-described (and everyone else-described) fat activist Tigress Osborn consumes more than her share of the backdrop (James Messerschmidt for NY Post)

Embracing one of 2023's innumerable strains of Orwellian brainwashing, Adams declared, "Science has shown that body type is not a connection to if you’re healthy or unhealthy. I think that’s a misnomer that we’re really dispelling.”

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say obesity is an invitation to a host of maladies, including to high blood pressure Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, many types of cancer, mental illness and difficulty with physical functioning. 

“Size discrimination is a social justice issue and a public health threat," said Councilmember Shaun Abreu, who introduced the measure. "People with different body types are denied access to job opportunities and equal wages — and they have had no legal recourse to contest it," said Abreu. "Worse yet, millions are taught to hate their bodies." 

A full 69% of American adults are overweight or obese, but our woke overlords would have us believe the real "public health threat" is a nice restaurant that doesn't want Two-Ton Tessie working the reception desk, or a landlord who's leary of a 400-pound man breaking a toilet seat or collapsing a porch.  

The enticingly-named Tigress Osborn, who chairs the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, said New York's ban "will ripple across the globe" -- perhaps something like what would happen if the hefty Smith College Africana Studies graduate were dropped into a swimming pool.  

Councilmember Shaun Abreu said he gained 40 pounds during the pandemic lockdowns and noticed people treated him differently

The New York Times reports that witnesses who testified as the measure was under consideration included "a student at New York University said that desks in classrooms were too small for her [and] a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera [who] said she had faced body shaming and pressure to develop an eating disorder." 

Some have dared to speak out against the measure. “This is another mandate where enforcement will be primarily through litigation, which imposes a burden on employers, regulators and the courts,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, speaking in April. 

Implicitly putting the weight ordinance in the same category as Brown vs Board of Education, Abrue said, “Today is a monumental advancement for civil rights, size freedom and body positivity and while our laws are only now catching up to our culture, it is a victory that I hope will cause more cities, states and one day the federal government to follow suit.” 

Taking effect in six months, the law has an exemption for employers "needing to consider height or weight in employment decisions" -- but "only where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations or where the Commission on Human Rights permits such considerations because height or weight may prevent a person from performing essential requirements of a job." 

We pray there's a federal exemption for employers of strippers and lap dancers. 

Think we're joking? We remind you that the chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is named "Tigress" -- and this is her Twitter profile banner photo:

via Tigress @iofthetigress
Tyler Durden Sun, 05/28/2023 - 15:30

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‘Kevin Caved’: McCarthy Savaged Over Debt Ceiling Deal

‘Kevin Caved’: McCarthy Savaged Over Debt Ceiling Deal

Update (1345ET): The hits just keep coming for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as angry Republicans…



'Kevin Caved': McCarthy Savaged Over Debt Ceiling Deal

Update (1345ET): The hits just keep coming for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as angry Republicans have been outright rejecting the debt ceiling deal which raises it by roughly $4 trillion for two years, doesn't provide sticking points sought by the GOP.

In short, Kevin caved according to his detractors.

Some Democrats aren't exactly pleased either.

"None of the things in the bill are Democratic priorities," Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) told Fox News Sunday. "That's not a surprise, given that we're now in the minority. But the obvious point here, and the speaker didn't say this, the reason it may have some traction with some Democrats is that it's a very small bill."

*  *  *

After President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) struck a Saturday night deal to raise the debt ceiling, several Republicans outright rejected it before it could even be codified into a bill.

Here's what's in it;

  • The deal raises the debt ceiling by roughly $4 trillion for two years, and is consistent with the structure of budget deals struck in 2015, 2018 and 2019 which simultaneously raised the debt limit.
  • According to a GOP one-pager on the deal, it includes a rollback of non-defense discretionary spending to FY2022 levels, while capping topline federal spending to 1% annual growth for six years.
  • After 2025 there are no budget caps, only "non-enforceable appropriations targets."
  • Defense spending would be in-line with what Biden requested in his 2024 budget proposal - roughly $900 billion.
  • The deal fully funds medical care for veterans, including the Toxic Exposure Fund through the bipartisan PACT Act.
  • The agreement increases the age for which food stamp recipients must seek work to be eligible, from 49 to 54, but also includes reforms to expand who is eligible.
  • Claws back "tens of billions" in unspent COVID-19 funds
  • Cuts IRS funding 'without nixing the full $80 billion' approved last year. According to the GOP, the deal will "nix the total FY23 staffing funding request for new IRS agents."
  • The deal includes energy permitting reform demanded by Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • No new taxes, according to McCarthy.

Here's McCarthy acting like it's not DOA:

Yet, Republicans who demanded deep cuts aren't having it.

"A $4 trillion debt ceiling increase?" tweeted Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA). "With virtually none of the key fiscally responsible policies passed in the Limit, Save, Grow Act kept intact?"

"Hard pass. Hold the line."

"Hold the line... No swamp deals," tweeted Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX)

"A $4 TRILLION debt ceiling increase?! That's what the Speaker's negotiators are going to bring back to us?" tweeted Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC). "Moving the issue of unsustainable debt beyond the presidential election, even though 60% of Americans are with the GOP on it?"

Rep. Keith Self tweeted a letter from 34 fellow House GOP members who are committing to "#HoldTheLine for America" against the deal.

"Nothing like partying like it’s 1996. Good grief," tweeted Russ Vought, President of the Center for Renewing America and former Trump OMB director.

In short:

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/28/2023 - 11:30

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